small businesses

Philly Restaurants Saddled With Payments on $37.6M-Plus in Pre-Pandemic Loans

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At the start of 2020, Philadelphia's restaurant scene was booming.

The competitive industry was welcoming newcomers from the city's top hospitality stars, like Mediterranean grill Laser Wolf from CookNSolo's Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook. Meanwhile, Visit Philadelphia and the James Beard Foundation embarked on a high-profile partnership to host a year of culinary tourism events, shining a spotlight on Philly's food sector.

This story first appeared in the Philadelphia Business Journal.

But in mid-March, the COVID-19 pandemic sent shock waves through the industry when Philadelphia was placed under a stay-at-home order and dine-in service at restaurants and bars was banned. Since then, restaurants have struggled to adapt to a new normal, operating exclusively on takeout and delivery models while applying for financial relief like federal Paycheck Protection Program loans.

A Business Journals analysis of small-business lending and building permits filed on behalf of restaurants in dozens of U.S. cities identified billions in recent investments made on the dining sector's future growth. Restaurant owners who borrowed money for renovations and trendy amenities in recent years are sobering to the possibility that many of those bets may be worthless in a post-coronavirus world. The filings document years of loan and construction activity leading into the current stages of the pandemic, with at least $2 billion in borrowing and building activity identified nationally in the past year alone.

The Philadelphia Business Journal looks at the 83 Philadelphia-area restaurants that received a total of more than $37.6 million in Small Business Association-backed loans between fiscal years 2017 and 2019.

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