City launches $11 million grant fund for hospitality industry

Marion County bars, restaurants and live entertainment venues that pay food and beverage taxes can apply for an $11 million grant program to help cover rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program opens Oct. 15 and will be funded by the city’s share of federal coronavirus relief funds.

The Hospitality Establishment Lifeline Program, or HELP, will provide up to $25,000 to businesses to cover rent or mortgage payments from April to December of this year. That amount of funding should assist at least 440 businesses.

A portion of that funding, $2.5 million, will be reserved for XBE-certified businesses.

The city also announced that a $1 million grant program will be available to help businesses purchase supplies, such as canopies and heaters, to help enable outdoor dining through the winter. Grants of up to $2,500 will be awarded.

Marion County Public Health orders have adversely affected restaurants, bars and nightclubs, at times closing them completely and at other times limiting their capacity and the hours they’re allowed to operate. Those businesses are also suffering from a loss of conventions in Indianapolis.

“Unfortunately, we now know that COVID-19 targets large crowds and [people in] close proximity, essentially preying on our impulse to be together,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said Thursday. “That has had a terrible effect on local restaurants, local bars and local entertainment venues. These places and their staff have always been there for us. In times of friendship, celebration and more. This ongoing health crisis now requires us to do everything we can to return that favor.”

Any restaurant, bar or live entertainment venue that pays food and beverage taxes and has been adversely impacted by the pandemic is eligible to apply for the funding.

Applications and more information can be found at response.indychamber.com/helpgrants.

Hogsett said he expects demand for the programs to greatly exceed the funding available, and he encouraged businesses to beginning looking over the application requirements now so they’re prepared when the application period opens.

The funds will be administered through a partnership with the Capital Improvement Board.

Andy Mallon, director of the CIB, said the hospitality industry in Indianapolis employs more than 80,000 people, and keeping these establishments open and going will help the city’s economy recover more quickly.

Patrick Tamm, president of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, said the next six months are expected to be harder for this industry than the past six months and that the funding announced Thursday is significant.

Originally, the Indianapolis City-County Council set aside $7.5 million for the program. The city was able to grow the fund by pulling from COVID-19 related programs in which the city predicts funding will be underspent.

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