Jill tyler, Bill jensen, and Jon sybert owns two restaurants in Adams Morgan. Goat tail is poised to see the other side of the pandemic as the future of Party time is much more uncertain. The reason has nothing to do with the Michelin star of Tail Up Goat. Unlike its sister restaurant, Reveler’s Hour was not approved for a grant from the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
These life-changing grants essentially wipe out the losses from the pandemic by replacing the 2020 income with the 2019 income minus any paycheck protection program loans that a restaurant or other catering entity might have received. RRF grants are a key factor that can propel a restaurant into a true recovery phase. The Reveler’s Hour team is hoping Congress will fill it up this month so more restaurants have a chance to bounce back. More than 370,000 companies have applied for the $ 28.6 billion federal relief fund and only 105,000 have been approved.
âThat’s the big difference,â Tyler says. âIf it hadn’t been for that, we would have the same conversation on Tail Up Goat and the same conversation with our investor at Tail Up Goat that we have with all of our investors at Reveler’s Hour and our team at Reveler’s Hour. ”
Reveler’s Hour is in a privileged position to be able to turn to its investors in the hope of obtaining new fundraising. This is not ideal, of course, because it means more debt. âIf we have to take on this debt, it will be on top of the debt that we have already accumulated over the past 18 months,â Tyler said. âIt’s a colossal debt.
The owners fear that other restaurants that haven’t received RRF grants will see an even worse reality if they don’t have investors ready to reopen their portfolios. They also recognize that they are fortunate to be able to speak up and to ask for help frankly. Other small restaurateurs might not be able to do this because they don’t know the media or may not be ready to panic investors or worry staff.
Tyler, Jensen and Sybert have a message on behalf of restaurateurs in the same situation: The pandemic is not over, most aid has dried up, and your favorite restaurants may still be vulnerable to permanent closure. âYou know how much money you are losing and how long you can keep losing that money until it’s over and a lot of people are there right now,â Tyler says.
Getting shut out of an RRF grant was the biggest blow, but a confluence of other factors left the romantic pasta restaurant on shaky ground, starting with its address in the district. A recent Lending Tree study ranked DC last of the 50 metro areas in terms of restaurant takeovers. While the district was near the bottom on almost all of the measures examined, it ranked particularly poorly on consumer spending in restaurants and hotels and time spent away from home in retail and the restaurants.
âDiners go out on Saturday night at 7 am and see a full restaurant and assume it’s the default state,â Jensen explains. It’s not. There isn’t always a crowd at 5 p.m. or a nighttime crowd that closes the bar. âPeople just don’t eat out the same way they were before the pandemic. Filling a dining room once is great, but in order for many businesses to generate the kind of income they need to make a profit, you need to fill the dining room multiple times. We are not there yet.
Going from an emotional and financial peak in June to a tough August has been a whiplash. âBeing in a moment where you’re in a space doing something again that you love without a mask and saying to yourself, ‘Oh great, there’s a light at the end of the tunnelâ¦â Jensen pauses. With COVID-19 cases on the rise again largely due to delta variant, mayor Muriel bowser implemented a new mask mandate for all interior areas on July 31. Restaurants reported an abundance of canceled reservations for holidays large and small shortly thereafter.) “I thought this was a viable way to make a living again and having everything dashed was particularly deflated. .
Tail Up Goat and Reveler’s Hour attempt to create a safe environment for customers and staff by requiring proof of vaccination for indoor meals. But that doesn’t eliminate the risk and diners know it. âWashington is an amazing market, but our experience here is that the restaurant audience is more reluctant to dine out and especially to dine indoors,â Jensen explains.
Reveler’s Hour does not have a viable outdoor space. âWe tried to run a post-apocalyptic parking lot last year, and it was fun, but it was never viable as a revenue generator,â Jensen said. âIt was more about exercising the P3 and keeping people employed for us, which was a priority. “
The owners are doing what they can to coax people through their doors. For the past year and a half, loyal loyal customers known as âride-or-dinersâ have been spending what they can or helping their favorite restaurants in other ways to ensure their livelihood. âThey need to come forward more than ever,â says Jensen. âI hope they don’t get tired of hearing us say that.
An email to Reveler’s Hours newsletter subscribers sent out today is not shy: “We cannot continue to operate at a loss indefinitely, and without further relief our only lifeline is in further debt,” reads -we. âIf you like what we do, we need your help. Make a reservation, buy a gift card, or treat us like the neighborhood wine store we always wanted to be. Support your other neighborhood favorites who are also hurting for business.
Reveler’s Hour is also at a disadvantage compared to Tail Up Goat because it is so new. Having opened their doors on New Years Eve 2019, they barely had time to introduce themselves to the community or benefit from early restaurant reviews. Plus, like most new restaurants, they have investors to pay back.
âRestaurants cost tons of money to open,â says Tyler. âIt’s not just about sales in a month. The percentage of profit in a given month that is profitable goes back to investors for years until those investors get paid.
Add that restaurants like Reveler’s Hour are experiencing supply chain disruptions and rising food costs. Sybert, the executive chef, has always sourced from small local farms and is unwilling to compromise on this value despite being strapped for cash.
âThe cost of everything from what we get from small farms to paper towels has gone up 20% or 200%,â he says. âAs a restaurant, we can’t just pass all these costs on to our diners. A dinner party wouldn’t be acceptable to spend $ 10 more this week on pasta than six months ago. This thing affected everyone.
Running a kitchen has been precarious due to the unpredictability of the pandemic. Sybert lives in fear that a new mandate impacting operations will fall at any time. The one just before Christmas Eve didn’t come with much notice. âAll of a sudden one weekend you thought you’d be making 200 or 300 place settings, instead you make 100 and you have the food for the 300 you were hoping to feed,â says Sybert.
The Reveler’s Hour team hasn’t talked about their own rent situation, but aside from labor, rent is the biggest expense for restaurants. Tyler says some of his peers in the industry have avoided paying rent during the pandemic because they got deferrals or discounts with their landlords. These don’t last forever and not everyone took a break.
âI know people who have taken on insane personal credit card debt and ruined their credit rating to try and keep their business open,â Tyler says. “It’s such a shame it didn’t help everyone.”
âThisâ is the RRF, which to this day is still not included in the $ 3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package. There is a tagging session scheduled with the House Small Business Committee tomorrow morning. Tyler urges those who can to contact their representatives in Congress to lobby them to replenish the fund and notes that the Senator Ben cardin of Maryland was among the lawmakers leading the charge.
(Tyler is on the management team of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, which lobbied the federal government to adopt restaurant-specific aid throughout the pandemic.)
Even if the RRF is replenished, Jensen isn’t sure there is a solid future for restaurants like his without “a return to normal public life” or further relief from the federal government. âThis style of restaurant – a neighborhood hub that has a high volume and still offers food and service at a high level – will disappear, at least for independent operators,â he said. “We need more help.”