Greenville County officials are offering a new round of grants to restaurants and other hospitality-sector businesses that had to pay for modifications to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.
About $3 million will be available for the Hospitality COVID Compliance Grant initiative, county spokesperson Bob Mihalic said Tuesday morning. The application can be found online at communityworkscarolina.org, and the deadline to apply is Dec. 18.
Mihalic said county officials allocated money for the grants because businesses in the hospitality industry continued to incur expenses throughout the year as the coronavirus pandemic dragged on.
“There was a demand for it,” Mihalic said.
Locally owned restaurants, hotels and event venues in Greenville County that were open in spring 2020 can apply for the COVID-compliance grants.
Any money that the businesses receive must be spent by Dec. 30.
Eligible expenses include but are not limited to:
► Building modifications or up-fits such as tents, outdoor patios, plexiglass barriers, outdoor heathers and drive-through.
► Sanitization costs such as cleaning expenses and handwashing/hand sanitizer stations.
► Technology to allow for a low-touch or contactless environment, including iPads and disposable supplies.
► Other expenses related to public safety measures and efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The money for the grants is coming from the $91 million in federal aid that the county received earlier this year through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. The county must return any of the federal money that is not spent by the end of the year.
Cold weather will pose even more challenges for industry
Carl Sobocinski welcomed the county’s effort to target aid towards the local hospitality industry, one he said is set to face even more challenges as colder weather takes hold.
Even with federal assistance, the duration of the pandemic has left restaurants with high expenses and uncertain revenue.
Sobocinski’s Table 301 Restaurant Group has been proactive when it comes to adapting to new safety standards, installing state-of-the-art air purification systems, redesigning indoor and outdoor dining areas and investing in personal protective equipment.
He said costs can quickly add up, explaining that putting up a tent on an outdoor patio for four to five months can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $9,000.
“I think it’s great that those funds are there and that the county is working with small businesses and trying to figure out ways to get some of these funds to small businesses to keep them going,” Sobocinski said.