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How to apply for a Chicago Hospitality Grant

The city is offering 1,000 restaurants and bars a $10,000 grant to help keep hard-hit businesses afloat. Acceptable uses include the purchase of equipment to facilitate outdoor dining, like heat lamps and furniture.

Nano Pino’s Italian restaurant on “Restaurant Row” in Edison Park. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Nano Pino’s Italian restaurant on “Restaurant Row” in Edison Park.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

In an effort to throw a much-needed lifeline to Chicago bars and restaurants struggling through the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced last week that the city would offer $10 million in grants to “independent bars and restaurants” that have been forced to stop serving indoor patrons.

The $10,000 grants will be available to 1,000 qualifying businesses under what is being called the “Chicago Hospitality Grant Program.” The grants are being offered on top of existing federal and state financial programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

The funding must be used for necessary operating costs like inventory, utilities payments, rent/mortgage payments, payroll or for purchasing equipment to facilitate outdoor service, like heat lamps and outdoor furniture. Grants may not be used for severance or hazard pay, property taxes or legal settlements.

Eligibility

To qualify for a grant, applicants must own and operate a bar or restaurant within city limits whose primary licensed business activity is “the preparation and serving of food and/or drinks.”

Eligible businesses must also:

  • generate no more than $3 million in annual revenues.
  • report economic distress due to COVID-19 beginning on or after March 1, 2020, including projected revenue loss.
  • demonstrate a current operational cost need greater than or equal to $10,000.

Independently owned and operated franchises may apply, as long as the franchise operates no more than 2 locations. Chicago-headquartered chains with less than $3 million in total annual revenue can also apply, as can breweries.

The following businesses are not eligible:

  • Arcades, grocery stores, movie theaters, performance venues and other establishments whose primary business is not the preparation and serving of food and/or drinks
  • Chain businesses (regional or national chains)
  • Franchises that operate more than 2 locations
  • Night clubs
  • Strip clubs or adult entertainment facilities
  • Any uses similar to those listed above

Also ineligible are restaurants owned by undocumented residents, and businesses that have permanently closed or are in the process of permanently closing without plans to reopen. Businesses that are temporarily closed but continue to pay rent and plan to reopen when possible are eligible to apply.

How to apply

Applications must be completed by an owner or part owner of the eligible business, and must include the following documentation:

  • A 2019 tax return or a 2020 monthly tax statement or bank statement for businesses that are too newly-created to have file
  • d an end-of-year tax return (statement(s) should include the business’ name and address)
  • Valid Chicago business license or other proof of business operations within the City (Articles of Incorporation and/or Certificates of Good Standing from the State do not meet this requirement)
  • Valid identification card (e.g., driver’s license, State ID, or passport)
  • Completed Form W-9 (access an editable form here)

Click here to fill out the official Chicago Hospitality Grant application form.

When will grants be issued?

The application deadline is Nov. 23, 2020 at 11:59 p.m., and businesses who have been chosen to receive a grant will be notified 3-4 weeks later. The selection process is not “first-come first-serve” — all submissions received at any point prior to the application deadline will be equally eligible for the $10,000, which will be awarded via lottery to 1,000 businesses chosen from the applicant pool.

Funding will be distributed via bank transfer to expedite processing, according to the city, which is why the application asks for bank account information.

The $10 million for the grants was reallocated from the city’s Small Business Resiliency Fund, created with the windfall Chicago received from the federal CARES Act.