Mundelein launches grant program to help local restaurants, bars during cold months of pandemic

Mundelein starts program to help them survive winter as pandemic continues

With the hospitality business struggling because of the COVID-19 crisis, Mundelein is launching a program to help local restaurants and bars this winter.

The village's winter outdoor dining grant program will give money to local restaurateurs and tavern owners buying tents, heating equipment and other gear to facilitate outdoor service. Business owners would be reimbursed half their costs, up to $5,000 each.

The village board unanimously approved the program Monday night.

As is the case across the Chicago area, Mundelein's restaurants and bars have been hurt by the COVID-19 crisis. People are eating out less often, and occupancy is limited more than usual to prevent spread of the virus.

Improvised outdoor dining areas have been created at many restaurants, but they could be adversely affected by the snow, ice and freezing temperatures that accompany Midwestern winters.

“(I've had) conversations with owners about how hard hit they were during the early restrictions and their fear that colder weather and limited capacity will hurt the bottom line,” Village Administrator Eric Guenther said before Monday's meeting.

Mundelein's new program provides money for purchases designed to counter those inhospitable conditions. Additionally, the funds also can be used to purchase or rent barriers, light fixtures or furniture to be used outdoors.

Restaurateurs who already have made such purchases can be reimbursed as long as they provide receipts, officials said.

The program will have a $150,000 budget. That's double the annual budget for the village's Business Incentive Grant program, which helps fund physical improvements at local businesses.

Funding will come from the federal coronavirus relief package Congress and President Donald Trump approved in March. Government agencies recently received revised guidance that clarifies and expands how money from that program — dubbed the CARES Act — can be spent, Guenther said.

“We anticipate receiving a great deal of money from the CARES Act,” Guenther said. “This new information provides an additional opportunity to lessen the negative impact that the pandemic has on our current budget.”

Businesses should be able to start applying for grants at by the end of this week or early next week, Guenther said.

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