CHICAGO - Just like so many businesses in Chicago, restaurants were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. An effort is underway right now to help Black-owned restaurants in particular with their recovery.
The Black-Owned Restaurant Relief Fund launched for the first time in 2020 and raised about $100,000.
This year, Black People Eats, the group behind the effort, hopes to more than double that by raising $250,000 to help 10 Black-owned restaurants with a $25,000 grant each.
"My goal was to use our influence to have an impact on restaurants with operations, with staffing and to make sure their bills were covered," said Jeremy Joyce, the founder of Black People Eats.
Emeche Cakery and Cafe in Bronzeville was a recipient of emergency funds last year.
"The funds really helped with payroll and operating expenses," said Emeche owner Janell Richmond. "Last year was just a very difficult time for a lot of restaurants so it really helped us out a lot."
One customer put the effort in historical perspective.
"I mean it was just the anniversary of the Tulsa massacre which is essentially white supremacy dismantling Black businesses and taking away from the community," said Leila Griffin. "So I think when we come full circle it’s really important to think about how we are funding our communities and Black businesses are the sole basis of this community."
Chicago restaurants that received assistance last year include 5 Loaves Eatery, Lizzy J Café, Luella’s Southern Kitchen, Soul & Smoke and The Woodlawn Urban Grill.
The Black-Owned Restaurant Relief Fund is collecting donations now through June 18 on GoFundMe.
The grand total raised will be revealed on Juneteenth as part of their virtual Juneteenth restaurant festival.