Councilman pushes for more grants for food and beverage sector

D1′s Roberto Trevino envisions $35M ‘Food and Beverage Worker Relief Program,’ but his request hasn’t left committee

City councilman pushes for additional funding for local bars and restaurants

SAN ANTONIO – After nearly three months, District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino is still pushing for another round of city help specifically for businesses in the food and beverage sector.

“What we’re seeing is that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel,” Trevino said. “The problem is a lot of these businesses don’t have the resources available to them to get to that light.

Trevino submitted a council consideration request (CCR) on Oct. 15 regarding a “Food and Beverage Worker Relief Program,” which he envisions as a $35 million in grants for businesses.

However, the proposal has not yet appeared on a Governance Committee agenda —a critical first step.

“The government can move as fast as it wants to,” Trevino said. “I won’t make any assumptions other than to just simply say ‘we ask —we respectfully ask that this move forward. You know, this is not about us individually. This is about our community collectively.”

The city has already distributed $29.7 million of federal CARES Act dollars through small business grants. Of that, $8.7 million of which went to the food and beverage sector, which could include not just bars and restaurants, but also businesses such as caterers.

In a statement released through a spokesperson, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said “The city of San Antonio has been doing the work outlined in the proposal since last spring.”

Nirenberg listed the small business grants as an example, along with a rental and mortgage assistance program and both the ongoing workforce development program and one approved by voters in November.

Nirenberg said 227 grants were awarded to the food and beverage sector, and according to city staff, “all eligible food and beverage applicants received grants.”

However, Trevino says that’s far from all the city’s restaurants.

The regional executive director for the Texas Restaurant Association, Dawn Ann Larios, told KSAT that the city’s eligibility cap of 20 employees meant many restaurants were left out.

“Our restaurants, they employ at least 20, 25 to 30, some 50, some over a 100 employees,” Larios said.

Though his CCR mentions no specific amount for the program, Trevino told KSAT on Tuesday he believes the city should be able to do as much as Washington D.C., which put $35 million in grants aside for its restaurants.

Finding that much could be tough in a belt-tightening budget year like this one. The original round of city grants were funded entirely through one-time federal stimulus dollars.

Trevino believes the money can still be moved around in the city’s $2.9 billion budget, possibly even with the involvement of $17 million earmarked for another pet project of his - the Alamo Plaza Master Plan. The plan is on hold after the Texas Historical Commission rejected a central part of it.

While the Alamo project money couldn’t be used directly for his program because of restrictions tied to its use, Trevino thinks it could be moved in a way that would free up commensurate amounts from another source.

That money, he says, could be used to help fund the proposal in his CCR along with other emergency relief efforts.

Such a move would require council approval, though. Additionally, a city spokesman said there aren’t enough funds in that area of the budget to free up the full $17 million.

The $900 billion stimulus bill Congress passed in December also has several measures that could help struggling restaurants, including larger loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, which reopened Monday.

However, Larios says the federal aid still won’t be enough on its own to help the struggling industry.

Related: San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce helping businesses stay open during pandemic

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.