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Chicago restaurants at Fulton Market call on government to increase funding

CHICAGO (WLS) — January is already tough in the restaurant industry, and some Chicago restaurants say more help from the federal government is urgently needed.

“Restaurants that haven’t received subsidies, those restaurants are on the verge of closing now,” said Roger Romanelli of the Chicago Restaurants Coalition and the US Restaurants Coalution.

“There are so many wonderful communities where all you could have is a McDonald’s. What happened to the neighborhood restaurant?” said Anthony Waller, Catering Out the Box.

On Monday, several local restaurant owners urged Congress and President Joe Biden to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. They said restaurants followed federal and local government COVID guidelines to keep the public safe, and now businesses that didn’t get help in the first round may not make it.

And for these merchants, it’s personal: the staff who have been supporting them for years depend on the restaurant’s income.

“You have all these employees, general managers, who don’t work for tips,” said Len DeFranco, Hawkeye’s Bar & Grill. “You have service people working for tips, and those people are being asked to sacrifice not directly but indirectly.”

“I’m not looking for a vacation, I’m looking to keep the staff together and keep the business going,” said Joel Nickson of Wishbone Restaurant.

A spokesman for Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said he favored adding additional funds, but Republicans opposed it.

“Senator Durbin believes restaurants are the lifeblood of our communities. When they struggle, our cities struggle. Congress needs to do its part to give them a helping hand as we continue to deal with this pandemic,” said a spokesperson said in a statement.

“I fully support the replenishment of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, and will continue to work to help ensure these small businesses continue to get the federal support they need as soon as possible,” said the Illinois senator. Tammy Duckworth in a statement.

The restaurant coalition calls for action by February 11.

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Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement