Landmark Washington D.C. restaurant Ben’s Chili Bowl has finally been approved for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan after being excluded from the first round of stimulus package funding.
The coronavirus pandemic forced co-owner Sage Ali to shut down all locations of the historic restaurant with the exception of the original on U Street, which has caused financial hardships, reports ABC News.
“We have Ben’s Chili Bowl here, we have Nats Park, FedEx Field, Horseshoe Casino and we have Capital One Arena,” Ali told WJLA of the restaurant's several locations. “We were looking to really have our best year yet. And all of a sudden this hit and it just took in a very, very different direction.”
The landmark restaurant, which was a go-to location for diners during the March on Washington, applied for a PPP loan after Congress passed the stimulus package last month. The program, which included $349 billion intended for small businesses, was exhausted by April 16, indicating an unclear future for the business.
"It took way too long to process. It seemed like they kept coming for more information over and over," Sage’s wife, Vida, told ABC News. "We were following the guidelines — go to one bank at a time — but we got left out. I was shocked when the money was out."
The original location, which was opened in 1958, has been up and running through take-out orders.
“The COVID-19 hit us hard, we’ve had to consolidate, we’re just working out of here for carryout and delivery,” Ali said. “We applied for the PPP loan and unfortunately, it did not get through yet.”
Congress then passed a second stimulus bill that included additional funding for PPP loans, for which the restaurant was approved. They have yet to receive the money but once they do, it should be able to cover at least two months of payroll for its four locations, WTOP reported.
Ali said they will only consider reopening other locations on a case by case basis. Before the coronavirus hit, the family was excited about the growth that was expected this year for their business. A new location had just opened in the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore at the beginning of March, but by March 16 the casino was closed due to coronavirus restrictions.
Despite having to close down shop, Ali said their customers have been supportive during the pandemic, ordering online more often, coming in and even buying gift cards.
“We’ve never asked for money,” Ali told WTOP. “We’re so thankful with what we’ve been given by the city that our job is to give back and to support and to bring something to the community.”
They used the money to give back to the community and began feeding first responders.
“That came as a response to this beautiful outpouring of love. How do we pay that forward? How do we use that to enhance our ability to give back?” he said.
The family is determined to keep the restaurant up and running and not succumb to hardships during the pandemic.
“We look forward to continuing for the next 60 years...we will all get through this, not just us, but the community,” Ali said.
Ben’s Chili Bowl is one of many small businesses struggling during the pandemic. Financial experts fear about 95% of Black-owned businesses were left out of the PPP, as Blavity previously reported. Minority businesses face an obstacle when it comes to their bank, as commercial banks favor clients with already established accounts.
While Black and women-owned businesses couldn’t get the loan, large businesses such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Nathan’s Famous and Shake Shack did receive money from the stimulus package, which they are returning after facing backlash, reports Forbes.