DuPage could provide $2.5 million in virus relief for restaurants, bars

DuPage County could offer financial relief for bars and restaurants left reeling from a ban on indoor service as COVID-19 cases are surging again.

As of Tuesday, the county will have awarded more than $15 million in grants to about 1,200 businesses facing economic hardship during the pandemic.

County board members will vote today on a proposal to specifically direct $2.5 million in federal CARES Act dollars to an ailing bar and restaurant industry.

The state has placed suburban Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will counties under tighter restrictions aimed at taming a resurgence in virus cases. Bars and restaurants were ordered to suspend indoor service after suburban regions surpassed an 8% rate of positive results on COVID-19 tests for three days, triggering temporary mitigations.

DuPage County Board member Robert Larsen, chairman of the finance committee, announced the effort to help restaurants during the clampdown.

"They're very concerned. They've had a very difficult summer," Larsen said. "They've been struggling to get back on their feet, and now they're facing new restrictions that ... potentially are going to devastate them. Some of them aren't going to survive this so we're going to do what we can to help them."

Larsen anticipates board members will sign off on the relief measure. If approved, restaurants, bars, banquet halls and event venues that generate no more than $4 million in annual revenue will be eligible to apply. The county will dole out the grants in up to $15,000 increments.

"It's a Band-Aid, but any Band-Aid right now would help," said Dick O'Gorman, the owner of the Ivy restaurant in downtown Wheaton.

Applicants must have a food service license, a restaurant license or a liquor license that permits on-site consumption of alcohol. Bar and restaurant owners also must derive 50% or more of revenue from the sale of food or liquor to qualify.

"We're not putting any particular restrictions on how they use the money," Larsen said. "They just have to demonstrate by way of an application that as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions, they have lost revenue and they can justify more than $15,000 in lost revenue, then they can apply for the maximum amount of the grant."

The restrictions on restaurants will continue until positivity rates decline.

"These are our neighbors," Larsen said. "These are people that have opened their businesses to us to gather and we need to protect them."

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