Outside of the Southwest Soda Pop Shop in the capital city in the United States, a long line of customers is waiting, both to buy ice cream and in solidarity with restaurants owned by African Americans, a particularly affected community by pandemic coronavirus.
“We went from 30 customers to 300 customers on a weekday. It’s crazy, “said Andrea Jones, the daughter of the owner’s ice cream parlor.
“The line is getting longer every day,” the 21-year-old said.
“They come in the rain and the good weather, they bring their umbrella. They support us no matter what. That’s nice to look at. ”
The store, which sits on the banks of the Potomac River, had to close due to the virus, causing enormous financial hardship until Jones called for support on Twitter the day before massive anti-racism from protest in the capital in the united states.
His tweet has been shared almost 30,000 times.
In recent weeks, as the nation has focused on race issues, in the wake of the killing of an unarmed black man George Floyd in police custody, there has been an explosion of solidarity and support from activists, as well as social media and business campaigns, to stimulate African-American restaurant owners.
Uber, La Bouffe, the food delivery service run by the giant carpool, launched a filter to promote the black of restaurants on June 4, in several cities of the United States and in Canada, and eliminated the delivery costs. for these restaurants.
– “Almost devastating” –
Numerous studies have shown that black business owners, and especially those in the food industry, were among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic and the chaotic economic crisis.
“Oh, man, he was almost devastating,” said Oji Abbott, the owner of Oohh and Aahh at the soul food restaurant which is also known as Chef O.
“We have probably lost all the income streams of money you could lose,” the 45-year-old said.
Close to Howard University, one of the most prestigious historically black colleges in the country, the restaurant has seen the flow of tourists and students dry overnight.
Just down the street, ben’s Chili Bowl, which famously counted Martin Luther King Jr as one of its clients in the days of civil rights marches in Washington, saw its activity drop by 80% during the isolation.
“Belonging to black companies tend to be much smaller, they have thinner profit margins,” said Sifan Liu, a research analyst with the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.
“And they also have more credit constraints and, therefore, they are very vulnerable to any recession, and especially this one,” she said.
Between February and April 2020, 41% of small businesses with African-American owners closed due to the coronavirus, according to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research released in June.
During the same period, only 17 percent of small businesses with white owners went into.
– Difficult to get capital –
As with many black business-owned companies, the owners of Ben’s Chili Bowl, and Oohh and Aahh were excluded from the first wave of the Loan Administration Trump to help small and medium-sized businesses afloat – a buoy rescue essential for many.
“In the first round of PPP (Protection Program Settlement Checks), the application process invoked major financial institutions to provide loans, which favored existing customers in large banks,” said Liu.
“And because black business owners are likely to be kicked out of the banking system or underbanked, they just don’t have those relationships and they’re less likely to get these loans,” she said.
Abbott opened his restaurant in 2003 with $ 30,000 of his own savings. He never called on a bank to help them grow his business.
“In general, access to capital is difficult for blacks, business owners,” said Liu.
In 2018, major banks approved by 29% of credit applications from African-American entrepreneurs, when approving funds for 60 percent of white business owner applicants, Brookings, said in a mid- April study on COVID-19 and small businesses.
“It takes more targeted effort to attack racial disparities,” said Liu.
Although Abbott has said he wants to see structural changes, he remains optimistic and has seen his pickup business since a loosening of stay-at-home restrictions.
“I want to support other black business people, the same way they came to support me,” he told AFP.
© 2020 AFP