More than 70 percent of restaurant applicants nationwide have been denied all funding. But here in New York, chains and celebrity chefs have brought in huge deals. Even an accused con artist received over $ 800,000 in federal taxpayer funds – a week after he was indicted by the federal government.
David Chang’s Momofuku Group, which operates posh restaurants in New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Toronto, grew fat with $ 6.9 million in taxpayer cash from the fund. Diners at Michelin-rated Momofuku Ko in the Bowery can enjoy the $ 130 tasting menu or a spicy tomato pizza for $ 35.
But at Two Maria’s Pizza next to the Baruch housing projects on the Lower East Side, where the slices cost $ 1, immigrant owner Maria Morillo received just $ 1,816.38 – the lowest amount of any restaurant. of Manhattan to benefit from the fund.
“I’m disappointed,” she said, speaking through an interpreter. “We’re trying to run a small business here. But they don’t care about us at all.
The fund was promulgated in March as part of the Biden administration’s bailout US stimulus package. The goal was to offset the losses suffered by restaurants devastated by pandemic closures.
With more money, Morillo said she could have hired new employees, including a delivery driver and pizza maker, providing two more jobs for her low-income neighborhood.
Momofuku spokesman Ryan Healy told the Post that they were using their $ 6.9 million from the fund “at our restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas,” but that it “doesn’t even cover. not our losses since March 2020 ”.
Grand Central Joint Venture, which operates Bronx-based Zaro’s Bakery and supplies bread to supermarkets and mail-order consumers across the country, was one of four New York companies to receive the $ 10 million maximum .
Juice Generation, the upscale boutique chain in hip neighborhoods affiliated with famed juicer Salma Hayek, withdrew $ 8.7 million from the fund.
” It’s crazy. It all stinks, ”says Patrick Hughes, the owner of Hellcat Annie’s and Scruffy Duffy’s in Hell’s Kitchen. “Some places were not even open and received millions. Many of us who worked hard to survive got nothing.
The only thing Hughes got from the fund was a denial.
But two restaurants just across Tenth Avenue, Le Prive and Casa Del Toro, received $ 859,000 – even though their owner, Sanjay Laforest, was arrested on May 12 for his alleged role in the embezzlement scheme. $ 17 million from his family.
The restaurateur and three co-defendants “laundered millions of dollars of the proceeds of their embezzlement scheme by transferring the money to other financial accounts owned by them and their family members … including two Manhattan restaurants owned by Sanjay Laforest, ”according to a press release issued by the Manhattan United States Attorney’s Office.
Laforest’s federal restaurant bailout approved on May 20 – eight days after authorities charged him with filtering stolen money from the same two restaurants. The scam was part of an effort to defraud a Manhattan electrical contractor who employed a family member, the charges say.
When asked on Saturday to respond to the charges against him, Laforest told the Post “I can’t answer that. When asked what he could do with the $ 859,000 donated to his restaurants, he repeated, “I can’t answer that.
The SBA was a mom too.
“It is the long-standing policy of the SBA covering multiple jurisdictions not to comment on individual beneficiaries or borrowers,” said spokesman Matthew Coleman.
The SBA released the full nationwide recipient list following a Freedom of Information Act filing by the Independent Restaurant Coalition.
Some 101,000 restaurants across the country have received money from the Restaurant Relief Fund. But more than 200,000, or 72% of the candidates, got nothing.
The number of applicants has not been analyzed by region. But if national trends hold true, more than 10,000 New York City applicants have been denied money by the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Four New York-based operations relished the maximum federal power of $ 10 million. In addition to Zaro’s, Sweet Hospitality Group, a Broadway theater dealership; M&R Concessions, a Dunkin ‘franchisee that operates at least one cafe at JFK International Airport, among others; and State of Mind Holdings, all fueled from the $ 10 million trough.
Other leading operators, such as Brooklyn Winery and Peter Luger Steakhouse, have poured $ 6.3 million and $ 5 million into their coffers, respectively.
Among the outfits at the bottom of the bailout list, Yummy Yummy Chinese Kitchen, a takeout joint in Soundview, Bronx, received $ 1,900.98. Miss American Pie, a small, largely take-out bakery in Park Slope run by husband and wife team Lindsey and Ryan Hill, received $ 2,251.36.
A total of 4,652 New York City restaurants, restaurant groups, dealers and food manufacturers received funding.
New York-based companies benefited from a total of $ 2.4 billion, or nearly 10% of the national total. Spending was very high: 52 operations received $ 5 million or more; 682 got $ 1 million or more. Over 1,000 businesses received less than $ 100,000; 68 less than $ 10,000.
The average in New York was $ 572,000 per recipient: 1,164 scored above average, 3,088 scored below average.
The program was also mired in legal controversy. It was originally intended to assist only operations owned by women and minorities. Three companies successfully continued the program on accusations of discrimination.