Spokane businesses can apply for new hospitality grant thanks to CARES Act funding

SPOKANE, Wash. — Many Spokane businesses are pinching pennies so they can stay open. There is some financial help on the way from the county.

The Spokane Board of County Commissioners approved the allocation of $10 million of CARES Act funding, which will be used for a hospitality relief grant. The owner of Soulful Soups and Spirits, Lauren D’Arienzo, said she will apply for the grant. Days have been tough for her business since March.

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“The whole thing was a mess and money was just going out the door,” she explained. “It’s been slow.”

D’Arienzo said April is usually a really good month because it’s cold out. Her restaurant wasn’t closed for long, and she started to serve take-out.

“The whole thing was a mess and money was just going out the door,” she said. “It’s those rent expenses and those you know, your Avista bill. A building like this, that’s a $1,000 a month.”

To balance the costs, she’s had to make some cuts.

“One of the things I did was I turned my TVs off so I cut my Comcast bill,” D’Arienzo said.

She also stopped serving certain items because they weren’t serving as much. If she gets selected for the grant, D’Arienzo said she would use it for rent.

Her restaurant is one of many hurting. Hunt is also fighting to survive.

“From a business standpoint it was devastating,” said Jed Conklin, owner of Hunt in downtown Spokane.

They were open for about six to eight weeks before COVID hit. They started doing to-go orders.

“We were surprised of the support we had,” Conklin said. “We were doing well and we had to lay off all of our staff. That was terrible.”

Conklin and the other owner have had to put in some personal money to keep the lights on.

“We’ve kept putting money away for a rainy day just in case and low and behold it poured,” he explained.

To save money, they cut back on their beer and food options. It wasn’t until two weeks ago that Hunt opened up on the weekends.

“These weekend services have been really strong so we’ve been excited about that,” Conklin said.

Conklin said he would use the money to bring employees back.

“We want to stay open for the public. We want to stay open for our staff,” he explained. “We want to stay open for Spokane and when this is all over we feel like we’ll be in a position for success.”

Before businesses apply for the grant, they need to make sure they’re eligible. According to Cindy Wendle, a contractor with Spokane County, businesses can still qualify even if they’ve received funding before.

“For these businesses that have been shut down and are still under mandate for reduced capacity, we really want them to look at things like their rent, their utilities, their payroll,” Wendle said.

She said this grant will not only help businesses, but the community.

“Really in the end, this money goes to our neighbors, our friends and family that are working these jobs in this industry,” Wendle said.

And staying open is something D’Arienzo is striving to do.

“We’ve been here 20 years in January and my intention is to be here 20 more,” she said.

Businesses can apply for the grant up until November 16. Wendle said a lottery will determine what they look at first and money will be awarded in December.

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