PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Five restaurants. Five grants at $5,000 each. A non-profit is giving local establishments the boost they need after a historically tough year amid COVID-19.
The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association says more than 1,100 restaurants closed last year in Oregon, alone. With all the financial hardships, Northwest Wine and Food Society — which usually gives grants and scholarships to students— shifted to help restaurants survive the pandemic.
In 2020, NW&FS created the Restaurant Reboot program. Now, thanks to a $50,000 donation to the Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and local donors they’re able to continue providing much-needed funds to Portland/Vancouver restaurants making a “big community impact.”
“Everybody really loves to see their neighborhood restaurants survive,” NW&FS Board Member Russell Brent said. “It’s just so heartfelt and so wonderful for us to be able to help do that.”
Just like many businesses in the community, Al-Amir Restaurant struggled to stay open during the pandemic — but that didn’t stop them from giving back.
“It’s been challenging, but it wasn’t just hard on us restaurant people, you know, just imagine those that could not get food or were suffering,” Al-Amir’s Lydia Massaad said. “We’ve really tried to help our community during this time especially our children and at-risk youth so that they felt security in a time of so much insecurity.”
Today, the family-owned restaurant continues to also serve those in need. Since 2017, Massaad’s non-profit, Our Giving Table has been giving nutritious meals to foster kids and underprivileged children. When COVID-19 hit, they transitioned to feed entire families with weekly food drives.
“During COVID we started making food boxes for families and having the counselors from the schools we work with, and DHS representatives come here, so we’d gather food on Tuesdays, and then throughout the week we’d have them come and take boxes to the family,” Massaad said.
Now on the receiving end, Al-Amir is one of five restaurants to receive a grant from the Restaurant Reboot program.
“This is going to help us bring some of our employees back and were really excited about that,” Massaad added.
The program’s 2021 campaign awards five $5,000 grants on the fifth of each month throughout May, June and July. June’s award recipients include:
- Huber’s Cafe and Bar (Portland’s oldest restaurant)
- Hop Capitol Brewing PDX
- Tommy O’s in Camas
- Farrar’s Bistro in Vancouver
- Al-Amir Restaurant in Portland
“Restaurants are struggling right now, and all of the effects of the pandemic that have affected their business, you know, $5,000 is not a lot of money — but to most of the operators that we’re talking to, $5,000 can give them a real leg up,” Brent said.
The third round of grants will be awarded on July 5th.
“When it comes down to it, we are here to support each other,” Massaad said. “We just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you!”
If you are interested in donating to NW&FS’s Restaurant Reboot program, click here.