TAMPA, Fla — The hospitality industry is slowest to come back in Florida with a loss of nearly 23,000 jobs in the bay area. But for restaurants that pulled through 2020 yet are still struggling, there is more financial help on the way.
Robin Miller, the President of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, says many people went into other industries to survive last year, which is why with even fewer hospitality jobs returning, there’s still such a need to fill positions.
It's a challenge Ken Hautmann is certainly experiencing.
“If you listed like 100 things of things we are going to have issues with it would’ve not even made a list when it comes to staffing,” he said.
Hautmann is the owner of Chill Restaurant and Bar on St. Pete beach — he’s been in the industry for 30 years and says they’re having to up their hourly rate to entice new employees.
“It’s mostly in the kitchen you know, the average wage on the beach was anywhere from $14-$16 an hour and now if you don’t start them at $17 or $18 an hour you’re just not gonna find anybody,” he said.
He believes that should help break the stigma that restaurants only pay “minimum wage”.
“As long as I’ve been in this business our kitchen guys, our restaurant staff, they’ve never been at minimum wage,” he said.
To help pay for those increased payroll expenses the American Rescue plan is offering businesses Restaurant Revitalization funds. It will provide funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million and no more than $5 million for each physical location. And, they don’t have to pay it back as long as it’s used before March 11, 2023.
Matthew Vario was in the process of opening Buoys Waterfront Bar and Grill when the pandemic hit.
“We were going through the permitting process right before cover started and then we lost all income coming in,” Vario said.
They went over budget since the cost of things has gone up so he plans on using the funds to help pay off some debt and payroll expenses too.
The US Small Business Administration says businesses need to make sure they fill out their info accurately in order to qualify.
“They need to make sure the numbers are correct, their information is correct because once it’s submitted we can not make changes on their behalf and they will have to resubmit again and it’s going to make it even lengthier.”
Click here for details on who is eligible, how to apply, and what those funds can be used for.