Pa. hospitality advocates launch fundraiser for struggling restaurants
A fundraising campaign to support struggling restaurants and hospitality sector employers is set to go live this week.
The Hospitality Assistance Response of Pennsylvania (HARP), the brainchild of officials with the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, will raise money for a first-come, first-served grant program directed at restaurants and other hospitality sector companies affected by business closures spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.
PRLA officials said they will begin accepting applications for HARP on April 23, and the application portal will end May 5. Only the first 1,000 applicants will be accepted during the first round.
The restaurant and lodging industry, the commonwealth’s second-largest employer next to agriculture, has seen precipitous drops in revenue in the past month, and federal loan programs haven’t been designed to address their industry-specific challenges, PRLA Director of Operations and Strategy Ben Fileccia said in an interview Wednesday.
Restaurant operators in Pennsylvania reported an 82% decrease in sales between April 1 and April 10, and the industry is projected to lose more than $1.8 billion in statewide sales by the end of April, according to the latest report from the PRLA.
Nationwide, restaurants lost $30 billion in March and are on track to lose $50 billion by the end of April. If the industry is on schedule for a gradual reopening of the economy in June, the nationwide expected forecast for restaurants is $240 billion in losses by the end of the year, according to the National Restaurant Association.
The idea for the fund was inspired by calls to PRLA from community members asking what they can do to give back to what Fileccia called “one of the most generous industries” in their time of need.
“Restaurants are the lifeblood of your community, of your small towns and of your big cities,” Fileccia said. “I am seeing a lot of communities stepping up and paying them back now.”
Fileccia said PRLA has an immediate goal of $250,000. So far, roughly $100,000 has been raised, with major contributions coming from Tito’s Vodka and the Yuengling family.
“As we continue to navigate this crisis, the wellbeing of our employees, business partners and local communities remain our top priority,” Wendy Yuengling, chief administrative officer and sixth generation family member of the Pottstown-based beer company, said in a statement released by the PRLA. “As a founding donor of HARP, we are proud to work alongside PRLA to support Pennsylvania’s hospitality workers, including bartenders, servers and waitstaff, who have been impacted by COVID-19.”