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50 San Diego restaurants awarded money to help pandemic recovery

People eating inside Gonzo Ramen restaurant
Gonzo Ramen in Carlsbad was one of 50 San Diego restaurants awarded a $3,000 grant from the California Restaurant Foundation’s Resilience Fund.
(Courtesy of Gonzo Ramen)

The California Restaurant Foundation doled out $3,000 grants to help local business owners update equipment and retain employees.

The California Restaurant Foundation has awarded 50 San Diego restaurants grants worth $3,000 each to help them recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The recipients range from a local frozen yogurt shop in Mission Valley to a barbecue joint in Lemon Grove and a family business making tamales in Escondido.

Local independent business owners like Mika and Jamison Murphy said the money will help them get new stoves at their restaurant, Gonzo Ramen, in Carlsbad. The couple opened their first restaurant in 2020, a week before the pandemic shut everything down.

Since the business was so new, Murphy said that they didn’t qualify for PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans or other COVID-19 relief programs that he found, so the $3,000 is the first grant they have received.

“We can use (this grant) for our restaurant since we’ve been on a pretty fixed income and, you know, we’re very small, just establishing ourselves during this pandemic,” he said. “No one has to give you anything, and to have this generosity just given, it’s just wonderful.”

For the second year, the California Restaurant Foundation, a nonprofit that supports and invests in California’s restaurant workforce, has provided COVID-19 relief grants to local restaurants through its Restaurants Care Resilience Fund. This year’s fund doled out 356 grants to independent restaurants across the state.

“Independent and locally owned restaurants are the backbone of so many communities — they welcome and accommodate our first dates, post-game celebrations and the many times we just don’t feel like cooking. They add vibrancy and uniqueness to every city, which is why the Resilience Fund is so important,” said Alycia Harshfield, executive director of the California Restaurant Foundation, in a statement.

The money is aimed at helping independent restaurants pay for equipment upgrades that may have been put off during the pandemic. The funds can also be used for employee retention bonuses to help combat the tight labor market.

The grants were funded by donations from Wells Fargo and California utility companies such as San Diego Gas & Electric. One of the criteria for grant recipients was that they needed to be an SDG&E customer.

Businesses that received grants also had to be based in California, open for at least one year, have less than three locations and under $3 million in revenue. Priority consideration was given to businesses owned by women and people of color.

In addition to the grant money, each recipient will receive year-long business support services funded by Wells Fargo, monthly Zoom training with fellow grant recipients, and a complimentary membership to the California Restaurant Association.

Murphy, who just wrapped a 25-year career with the U.S. Navy, said that between opening a restaurant amid COVID-19 dining restrictions and at one point operating with just his wife and three sons, it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s a lot of work and there’s a lot more work — this feels harder than the Navy,” he said of the long hours his family has put into the restaurant.

But, Murphy is optimistic about this summer and he is looking forward to being part of this industry group and taking advantage of the business training sessions.

A full list of the California Restaurant Foundation grant recipients, can be found here.


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