Restaurant owners apply for relief grant amid dine-in ban

GENESEE COUNTY — As the statewide ban on indoor dining continues, many restaurant owners across Genesee County are applying for another round relief grants to help offset financial losses.

On Dec. 14, the state launched the Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Initiative to help get small businesses back on their feet. As part of the initiative, restaurants with 25 employees or less and a low/moderate-income owner can qualify for the assistance through the Restaurant Relief Grant.

According to the state, grants are now available in amounts up to $10,000. Eligible costs under the grant include items such as personal protective equipment (PPE), supplies/inventory, staff payroll or wages and rent/utility expenses.

John Panos, owner of Liberty Family Dining in Flushing, said that he applied for the relief grant to supplement wages that his employees have lost during the latest dine-in ban. He said that many of his 25 employees have gone from working 40 to 50 hours a week to just 15 to 20 hours a week.

“The grant enables me to pay them full wages that they’re accustomed to getting, which is especially important during the holidays,” he said.

Panos attempted to apply for the grant when it opened on Dec. 15 but had to wait all day online as thousands of small business owners rushed to fill out their applications.

“I was finally able to hit the ‘apply’ button at 9 p.m.,” he said. “When I finally got in, I got put in a queue, and there were 1,162 people in front of me. I finally got my application in at 11 p.m.”

Despite the long application process, Panos said that the grant will be a lifeline for his staff and his restaurant as he relies on takeout orders for revenue.

“We had our two busiest seasons taken away from us by (COVID-19), including the spring and lent season through March, April and May, and now the holiday months leading up to Christmas,” he said. “I’m hopeful that there will be a rebound and things will simmer down by the first quarter of next year.”

Applications for the Restaurant Relief Grant will be open until Jan. 15. To apply and see a full list of eligibility requirements, required documentation and a link to the application, visit the Genesee County website at http://