San Jose restaurant owner Jennifer Echeverri was awarded a $ 5,000 scholarship to help weather the winter of tightening COVID-19 restrictions. A month passed. The money never came.
As of December 22, none of the 30 San Jose restaurants that were notified of a grant had received one. They were also not told when the funds would arrive until San Jose Spotlight inquired about the status of the money.
The next day, the third-party company tasked with managing the grants notified all 360 nationwide beneficiaries that the money was on the way, and the distribution will be completed early next year.
“We know you care about receiving the distribution and we are working to get it to you as soon as possible,” Hi Alice wrote in an email. “Thanks for your patience.”
The grants, granted by food company DoorDash, were intended to help businesses purchase heating equipment and additional safety supplies to keep operations outdoors and possibly indoors if the law allows.
Echeverri, owner of Habana Cuba, applied for the “Winterization Grant” on October 16, the first day the applications were opened. On November 20, DoorDash emailed her to confirm that she would receive an award.
Recipients have been advised that anyone not responding to the award notice and submitting the requested documents, including the W9 forms, within 48 hours would lose their approval. Applicants had until November 24th to fill out another form. Echeverri hurried to bring the files back to DoorDash.
DoorDash spokesman Campbell Matthews said grants are being distributed daily but moving slowly as Hello Alice has to go through the records to review the companies’ legal and accounting records.
The holidays are especially tough for Echeverri this year. Habana Cuba depends on its seasonal food. In one particular winter, Habana Cuba could serve 20 to 30 parties, but this year there was only one large catering assignment.
She said she was lucky enough to be one of the scholarship recipients but could really use the money now.
“We survive,” she said. “But I’ll need more scholarships soon. I don’t know what to expect in January. “
Echeverri said she was glad she didn’t use the grant on an outdoor tent because the county issued a stay at home order prohibiting companies from serving customers indoors and outdoors until Jan. 4.
About a third of the nationwide scholarship holders have received their scholarships. Recipients in San Jose will receive their funds through January. You can use the money to cover costs already incurred in preparing for colder temperatures, Matthews said.
But for some, January is already too late.
Chacho’s Mexican restaurant in downtown San Jose is closed due to COVID-19. File photo.
You didn’t make it
Chacho’s Mexican restaurant on East San Fernando Street in San Jose was one of 30 local grant recipients. But the restaurant closed for good earlier this month and buckled under the pressure of the pandemic.
Another scholarship recipient, Jeanette Castillo, fears her restaurant will come next.
She will be a part-time owner of Castillo’s Mexican restaurant in January. The $ 5,000 scholarship should help her make up for rent payments.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen next month and we don’t know if we can pay for it,” said Castillo. “It’s tough … Any help is really useful right now.”
The restaurant is on the hook for a monthly rent of $ 12,000 on a building that has not been used since the ban on indoor dining. The company relies on delivery services like DoorDash and GrubHub to help customers purchase meals.
Before the pandemic, Castillo was making $ 4,000 to $ 7,000 a day. Since the pandemic, that number has dropped to $ 1,000 a day – barely enough to catch up on the return rent, Castillo said.
The landlord gave her until April to pay the rent for January and February, but Castillo fears the restaurant may be stuck.
Frank Nguyen, owner of Academic Coffee, did not receive his scholarship either.
Since nobody followed him, he wasn’t sure whether he had filled out the documents incorrectly or whether the grant had simply “fallen through the cracks”.
“At this point, our business is only surviving month to month,” said Nguyen, adding that the business has declined 40%. “I applied for every single city-advertised scholarship and every other small business resource I came across.”
After applying for more than 20 scholarships, he got his first response from DoorDash.
Nguyen said he was grateful for the company’s support, but said Academic Coffee doesn’t use DoorDash because he couldn’t afford the service fees. Nguyen said he will reconsider DoorDash delivery as an option as both San Jose and Santa Clara Counties have exceeded a cap on delivery fees to cap the amount third-party restaurant services can charge.
While Castillo eagerly awaits her scholarship, she remains confident that more help is on the way.
“I know we’re not the only ones in this situation,” said Castillo. “And I know there will be more help because the governor just announced some small business grants – so I’ll be looking for that too.”
The scholarship program is part of DoorDash’s Main Street Strong initiative, which aims to help restaurants survive during the pandemic. DoorDash announced that it will add an additional $ 10 million to its cold weather grant program to help other businesses, including some in Canada.
To receive a grant, restaurants had to be in San Jose and have three or fewer locations. The company had to have 50 or fewer employees in 2019 and annual sales of $ 3 million or less per store in 2019.
Local scholarship recipients included: Academic Coffee, Anh Hong Restaurant, Blue Water Seafood & Crab, Bona Pizza, Pot Roast, Castillo’s Mexican Restaurant, Chacho’s, Cielito Lindo Restaurant, Di Lac Vegetarian Kitchen District, Fu Kee, Gong Cha, Good Karma Cafe, Gunther’s Restaurant & Catering, Habana Cuba Restaurant, Hobee’s California Restaurants, Palermo Italian Restaurant, Pho Ga An Nam, Pizza California, Rookies Sports Lodge, hearty cuisine, Smoking Pig BBQ, Spoonfish Poke, Tasso’s Restaurant & Bar, Cider Junction, The Funny Farm, Noodle market, Valencian gold, Voyager Craft Coffee and Ethiopian Walia cuisine.
Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.