6 area restaurant businesses awarded more than $1M each in federal funds

Nearly 300 area businesses were approved for roughly $57.5 million in federal aid through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund, according to data released this week.

The $28.6 billion program was created this year by the American Rescue Plan and closed earlier this month. It was intended to support food service businesses — mostly restaurants and bars — that lost revenue during the pandemic.

Local award amounts ranged from $1,226 to the maximum of $10 million for the Thunderdome Restaurants chain that listed its corporate offices in Hamilton. The six regional applicants approved for more than $1 million were:

  • Thunderdome restaurants, Hamilton: $10 million
  • Fricker’s Holding Co., Miamisburg: $3.3 million
  • Golden Corral, Dayton (Miller Lane): $1.6 million
  • Twin Dragon Buffet, West Chester: $1.6 million
  • Golden Nugget Pancake House, Dayton: $1.4 million
  • Tanks Bar and Grill, Dayton: $1.1 million

The average award in the region was for $196,396. Roughly 47% of the 293 area businesses approved were woman-owned. Roughly 8 percent are veteran-owned. Statewide, 2,829 business were approved.

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Jim Manley, spokesman for Fricker’s, said the impact of being forced to close because of the pandemic last year “was as bad as you can imagine.”

He said their 24 stores were gearing up for March Madness and had 38 tons of chicken wings delivered four days before the state-ordered shut down. They couldn’t donate raw chicken to food pantries.

“Not only did we have to pay for the chicken when it came in the back door, we had to pay for it again when it went out the back door when they threw it away,” Manley said.

Their stores had $600,000 in monthly fixed costs but no revenue, he said.

Business is picking up, Manley said, but still not back to where it was pre-pandemic because of a worker shortage.

Debbie Tankersley, owner of Tank’s Bar and Grill, said she is currently open for breakfast and lunch and hoping to re-open in the evenings within a month if she can hire more staff.

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Without the SBA grant, “I would’ve probably been closed at the end of the year,” she said.

Tankersley said she used the funds mainly to pay and offer benefits to her employees.

“It’s being invested in the people that work for me,” she said.

Officials with the other businesses above could not be reached or declined to comment. All reported the intended purpose of their grant was to cover utilities and payroll, according to the SBA data. Some said it was also for supplier costs. Program rules say funds must be used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023.

Golden Nugget has not reopened after closing last year because of the pandemic. Restaurant owners have put their building on South Dixie Drive up for sale and said they intend to reopen at a smaller location.

Many of the businesses approved for restaurant revitalization funds — including Tank’s and Golden Nugget — were also approved for federal Payroll Protection Program loans last year.

The website for Thunderdome Restaurants says it offers eight dining concepts at 39 locations nationwide, including some in southwest Ohio.