COVID relief loans not enough to save Country Cupboard | News

Despite receiving nearly $2.7 million in COVID relief loans to cover payroll and other operating expenses, Country Cupboard Inc. has been unable to weather the economic hardship caused in part by the global pandemic.

A Lewisburg staple for nearly 50 years, the Country Cupboard restaurant along with the nearby gift shops and greenhouse will close by the end of February, CEO and co-owner Chris Baylor announced Monday.

“It really was a lifeline for when we really needed it,” Country Cupboard chief financial officer Robert Pierce said of the COVID-related relief funds the company received during the pandemic. .

However, the challenges of having to close the restaurant for 103 days at the start of the pandemic and reopen with restrictions, as well as labor and food shortages and declining consumer interest in dining at inside were too difficult to overcome, Baylor said.

“We just never recovered from that,” he said.

The hospitality industry, especially restaurants, has been severely impacted by labor shortages, food supply chain issues and consumer reluctance to eat out since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 19 in the United States in March 2020.

Country Cupboard was one of more than 320,000 full-service restaurants across the country to raise a total of $42.51 billion in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to cover payrolls. The US Small Business Administration loan program ended on May 31, 2021.

When the Lewisburg family restaurant applied for its first PPP loan in April 2020, it said it employed 265 people and had an annual payroll of at least $7.17 million in 2019, according to the federal website listing all PPP loans. nationally issued.

The first PPP loan Country Cupboard received was for $1.1 million. The company received another PPP loan in January 2021 for $1.49 million. Country Cupboard Inc. and Country Cupboard Inn have received an additional $90,000 in COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP) grants.

At the time of Monday’s closure announcement, Country Cupboard Inc. had 140 full-time and part-time employees.

The company used all of its PPP funds to cover payroll, which made it eligible for the loan forgiveness program, Pierce said.

Another potential funding stream was the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). Although the Country Cupboard applied online for some of the $65 billion in funds within 15 minutes of it being made available and was called a second round of recipients, all the money was dispersed during the first round, Pierce said.

This week, the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association urged Congress to renew the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), making more grants available to restaurant owners affected by the COVID pandemic.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the first round of Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants saved more than 35,000 jobs in Pennsylvania. The association estimates another 60,000 restaurant jobs could be saved with more funding.

“There’s a lot of ‘what ifs,'” Baylor said of how that extra financial boost could have impacted her family’s business.

He dispels any discussion that plans have already been drawn up for the 77,000 square foot building that houses Country Cupboard and Shops.

“We’re just trying to get through the next few weeks,” he said, especially as there has been a “significant” increase in activity since Monday’s announcement of the impending closure.

“Our bakery shelves are completely empty at the end of the day and we had lineups, which is not normal for January,” Baylor said, adding that he and the employees had been overwhelmed by the responnse. “We are touched by the great stories and the thank you cards.”

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