Cash on menu for Miami Beach restaurants that paid delivery services in pandemic
Miami Beach officials are hoping to deliver aid to local restaurants that have been affected by the pandemic and incurred expenses from third-party delivery programs such as UberEats, GrubHub and Postmates.
City commissioners are to review Oct. 28 a program developed by staff for aiding these businesses, and the administration hopes to roll out applications by Nov. 1 to be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis until funds run out.
At a Sept. 29 budget meeting, a commission memo said, $60,000 was allocated to assist local restaurants with delivery expenses. Over 600 restaurants, the item continued, could possibly be eligible for the proposed grant.
With limited funds, city staff are aiming to help around 10% of these businesses by capping grants at $1,000 per restaurant and establishing eligibility requirements for businesses and reimbursable fees.
Rickelle Willliams, the city’s economic director, told commissioners at a committee meeting Monday that the goal of the program was to help small businesses and mom-and-pop restaurants, and that limits would be put in place to ensure that funds are spread to as many local restaurants as possible.
Only expenses incurred between March 12 and Oct. 31 will be covered, the memo states, and these expenses must be delivery service fees from third-party services such as UberEats, DoorDash or others.
In a pre-Covid era, the memo noted, such services helped transform food delivery from a pizza-dominated landscape to a dream-come-true for foodies looking for all types of cuisine. During the pandemic, however, they became a lifeline for local restaurants barred from seating guests. However, the memo continued, this seemingly sweet deal turned sour as customers became increasingly reliant on delivery and continued to opt for ordering in over eating out. Fees charged by apps, therefore, have become a costly concern for small business owners in the industry, the memo said.
In addition to offering this aid to restaurants, it added, “the administration is exploring opportunities to partner with food delivery apps/companies to promote Miami Beach restaurants and increase patronage.”
At Monday’s meeting, commissioners challenged staff to make sure the grant program would help the intended recipients, and asked for language clarifying procedure in scenarios that could include a group of partners that own multiple restaurants.
If, for example, two partners own two restaurants together, Ms. Williams said, only one would be eligible for funding. Commissioners suggested these requirements be explicitly clear when the application rolls out.
“If any individual is the president/general manager/majority owner for more than one eligible business, the individual may only apply on behalf of one business,” the proposal currently states. “Note,” it continued, “this means that if one or more eligible businesses have an owner in common, only one of those businesses may apply for the program, even if the business(es) has(have) more than one owner.”
Commissioner David Richardson also said that franchise owners, who are excluded from the proposal, are sometimes small business owners and should be considered – though franchises owned by corporations should not qualify.
The current proposal states that eligible businesses must be up-to-date on taxes and licenses and not have any pending fines or litigation with the city. “Nightclubs, bars without restaurants, mobile food trucks or carts, restaurants within hotels and home-based businesses,” the memo said, are also excluded.