Downtown restaurant Amilinda (315 E. Wisconsin Ave.) is suffering as a result of the lawsuit filed in May against the Small Business Administration, seeking to prevent it from prioritizing distribution of Restaurant Revitalization Fund monies to women, racial minorities and veterans.
The suit alleges that the plan was discriminatory against white people. The news was reported in a New York Times story on June 14. A federal judge in Texas, where the suit was filed, issued an injunction last week that prohibited the SBA from prioritizing the monies to socially disadvantaged groups, which meant that close to 3,000 business owners – Amilinda is one – that had filed applications and were approved for aid had their approvals rescinded.
Owner Greg León says in May his restaurant was approved to receive $285,000 – the amount he says the small Spanish restaurant lost during the COVID-19 pandemic – and was just waiting for the aid to arrive. “I called because the money was supposed to be put in our account in three to seven business days and it hadn’t. I asked if there was a problem,” saying León. “We were told to wait 10 to 14 [more] days.”
On Sunday, June 13, he received an email from the SBA notifying him that the money was held up. If and when those rescinded applicants receive their approved money remains to be seen. The Times reports that the SBA says it won’t process the rescinded applications until it has processed “all previously filed non-priority applications, and only then if the RRF is not first exhausted.”
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For León and his staff, that news is devastating. “This was money that was going to pay our staff, to pay bills, to go to the landlord, to go to the farmers. If we can’t buy from local butchers, that affects a lot of people,” he says.
In the meantime, Leon says they’re trying to figure out ways to keep the restaurant going. Amilinda has been operating at 50 percent capacity, which is “literally the breaking point for our staff,” he says, adding that he can’t afford to hire more staff if he increases capacity.
“I know there’s a demand for more tables. We’ve had to turn people away,” León says.
He says he and the staff are strategizing ways to bring in more income, such as possibly extending Amilinda’s hours: “I’ve reached out [to Wisconsin legislators] and nobody is getting back to me. Nobody cares what happens to us. It’s just really hard to come in [to the restaurant] each day.”