Kentucky restaurant owners call on Sen. McConnell for more federal aid

Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 10:43 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 31, 2020 at 11:27 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A group of Kentucky restaurant owners, distillers and more is asking for more federal aid.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition wants Sen. Mitch McConnell to back the RESTAURANTS Act and add it to the next stimulus package.

McConnell has introduced the HEALS act which would provide more Paycheck Protection Program funding.

This comes after Governor Andy Beshear rolled back restaurant capacity to 25 percent and closed bars for two weeks.

Chef Ranada Riley is no stranger to change. Just two months ago, she closed up shop at Ranada’s Bistro and Bar. Now she’s the brains behind her new business: Ranada’s Kitchen.

“76 percent of new restaurants close their first 2 years and the margins are very slim, but if you make 13 cents on the dollar, you’re doing everything right,” she said.

She agrees with other restaurant owners who argue another PPP loan wouldn’t cut it.

She received it at her former joint.

“It scratched the surface,” Riley said. “For what we’ve gone through, I know sales at the bistro dipped 80 some percent and steadily bringing that up, it’s tough.”

She said the way restaurants have to operate now, on top of low sales, is costly.

“There’s an expense to all of the foil and the pans and everything.”

Chef Ouita Michel said as it stands, people will continue to lose their livelihood.

“These business owners and the suppliers who work with them are looking at the empty seats and doing the math. How will they pay their bills if they can’t open their businesses? The current HEALS act doesn’t fully address those concerns. Loans cannot be the only solution to indefinite closure. The $120 billion revitalization fund proposed in the RESTAURANTS Act is the only way we will make it through this crisis,” Michel said in a virtual call Friday morning.

Riley said she’s not banking on the federal aid.

“I have to think worst case scenario, I can’t put all my eggs in one basket, I believe a lot in sweat equity.”

She doesn’t want to see her peers’ restaurants on the chopping block either.

“We’re here to help one another, at the end of the day, we’re competing against a pandemic,” she said.

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