Mayor Wu Announces $1 Million in New Grant Funding to Support the Revitalization of Boston's Restaurant Industry
Today, Mayor Michelle Wu announced the launch of the Re-FRESH (Revitalization of Food Restaurants and Establishments to Stabilize Holistically) program. The program will award $1 million in grant funding to support small food businesses within the City of Boston that were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and are planning to grow and revitalize their business. Recipients will also receive support from the City to create a business plan to help ensure success for the long term. These efforts aim to grow small food-industry businesses, including restaurants and bars, in targeted communities to avoid their displacement or closure. Funding for this program comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The first round of applications is open until Friday, December 15, 2023. A second round will open later in 2024. More information and applications are available at boston.gov/refresh-program.
“Every investment in our small businesses helps build strong communities throughout our city,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Restaurants play a vital role in bringing people together and developing thriving neighborhoods that delight residents and visitors alike with flavors and cuisine as diverse as Boston. I am proud to support our restaurant owners as they continue to recover from the pandemic and serve up the best of Boston.”
“The Re-FRESH program is a crucial initiative to rejuvenate small food businesses in Boston, severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune. “Our local restaurants play a pivotal role in shaping vibrant neighborhoods and we have a duty to find creative and intentional ways to support the recovery and growth of Boston's diverse culinary landscape, uniting communities, and aiding businesses in creating sustainable business models.”
Administered by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion’s Small Business Development team, the program will award grants from $2,000 up to $15,000 towards business needs, which can include employee payroll, commercial rent, inventory, and fixed expenses. Translated information and applications are forthcoming in six additional languages: Spanish, Haitian Creole, Vietnamese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and Cape Verdean Creole.
“We know that the restaurant and food industry was hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and by combining financial support together with technical assistance, Re-FRESH is a response to ongoing conversations and needs from the small business community, to address not just recovery but also growth in this important sector,” said Aliesha Porcena, Director of Small Business Development. “We have expanded how we interpret the word ‘restaurant’ for this program, to provide more opportunities for food establishments, juice, shops, taverns, and mobile enterprises to be eligible for this grant. We understand the great need, and want to support the businesses that provide nourishment to our communities.”
To help ensure long-term success, selected restaurants will participate in a program to create a plan to reactivate or stabilize their business, creating goals to recover from setbacks. The City’s Small Business Development team will provide support services through our strong technical assistance partners. Services include, but are not limited to:
- working one-on-one with a business coach;
- offering support and advice;
- creating comprehensive marketing plans.
"The Re-FRESH grant opportunity comes at a great time for our business," said James Raza, co-owner of Democracy Brewing. “We are still recovering from the devastation that the pandemic had on the food and beverage industry, and any funding support offered by the City of Boston is tremendously appreciated.”
Tourism and hospitality is the third-largest industry in Boston and the Commonwealth. The sector employs a large percentage of workers of color, making it critical to an inclusive economic recovery. The City of Boston has conducted ongoing outreach and surveys with small business owners of all sectors and has worked with Boston’s Main Streets to ensure City programs respond directly to those needs to build back stronger and more equitably.
“As we all know, the restaurant industry was the first and hardest hit industry during covid, and we are still trying to get out of that setback,” said Biplaw Rai, managing partner of Comfort Kitchen in Upham's Corner, which completed buildout and opened their permanent space during the pandemic. “During the pandemic, various covid funds really helped small businesses to stay afloat and continue their business. The Re-FRESH program is going to be a huge help for small food businesses to create stability and to recover from the pandemic. This fund will help in day to day operation, and to prepare for the slow winter season.”
Eligible businesses include food businesses, restaurants, bars, taverns, food trucks, and juice shops. Businesses that are located in low to moderate income communities will be prioritized. In addition, businesses must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- The business must employ 25 or fewer individuals, including the business owner.
- The business must earn no more than $2 million in annual revenue.
- The business must have faced an economic hardship directly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Further eligibility details are available at boston.gov/refresh-program.
Small Business Development will hold virtual information sessions for interested applicants on Zoom. Registration is required:
- Monday, December 4, 2023, 4:00 pm: Registration Link
- Thursday, December 7, 2023, 10:00 am: Registration Link