Chicago restaurants denied COVID dollars push for $60B federal funds amid lingering pandemic impact

'We are still on thin ice,' says Hopleaf's Michael Roper
CHICAGO (WLS) -- One Little Italy family business started in 1909. Now, the third and fourth generations run the business with hope it will stay around.

"Industry-wide it's been a struggle," said Kim DiPofi, Pompei Restaurant's corporate liaison. "It's something none of us have encountered so we are all learning as we go."

DiPofi said she was hopeful when the federal government announced the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and some groups were to get priority, like owners of color and veterans. But DiPofi said they didn't get anything from that fund even with the owner, her father, being a Vietnam War veteran.

"We were optimistic that would help us with roofs and machinery maintenance, but when that didn't, there is us again, just fixing what we can," DiPofi said.

DiPofi was among other local restaurateurs from the Chicago Restaurant Coalition who asked the federal government Wednesday to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund with $60 billion.

Roger Romanelli of the Fulton Market Association criticized the government's distribution of the original funds.

"This was a massive fund and it was massively underfunded," Romanelli said, calling it the "worst disbursement of funds."

Most in the coalition did not receive money from the fund.

Michael Roper of Hopleaf said the COVID-19 pandemic still impacts business like his.

"People talk about post-COVID," Roper said. "We haven't recovered. We are still on thin ice."

Joel Nickson of Wishbone added that he had to sell property to keep his business going.

"I personally had to sell property to make ends meet," Nickson said. "We are staring at a fall and winter that is very uncertain."

The coalition said some restaurants who were shut out from funds need more money before Thanksgiving in order to make it to 2022.
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