DC Offers $8M Round of Grants Aimed at Restaurant, Entertainment and Retail Sectors


Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, who last week won her third term to lead the District, has created a new $8 million round for the Bridge Fund grant program, which provides financial support to businesses and proprietors in the restaurant, entertainment and retail sectors. 

Teaming with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), Bowser announced that this new round of grants would be targeted at business owners who experienced revenue loss during the pandemic, with those who previously had not received relief funds getting priority. 

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Businesses obtaining the grants may use them for needs such as rent, payroll and labor costs, and other operating expenses.

“Our restaurant, entertainment and retail industries are critical to our comeback,” Bowser said during a press conference Monday. “When we have great places for people to dine out, and shop, and visit, that not only improves the quality of life for our residents, it draws more visitors into D.C. And when we have more visitors in D.C., and more people spending at local businesses, that creates jobs, it allows us to invest in important programs and services, and it drives new opportunities for D.C. residents.”

This move comes as small businesses are faced with a new adjustment, after a proposal to raise the minimum wage for District workers who receive tips passed last Tuesday. The initiative goes into effect next year, though no specific start date has been set as the measure needs to go through congressional review before it becomes law. 

The measure would see the minimum wage rise from $5.35 to $16.10 , with the base wage increasing by $1 or $2 every year until 2027, when it will reach the full prevailing minimum wage, which is based on inflation.

The Bridge Fund grant awards will range from $5,000 to $45,000, and will be managed by DMPED and administered by City First Enterprises.

“Since the start of the pandemic, Mayor Bowser has focused our small business initiatives on relief, recovery and growth,” John Falcicchio, the deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said. “Our small businesses still need our support, and our hope is that this latest round of the Bridge Fund will help propel our small businesses — especially in the hospitality industry — from recovery to growth.”

Eligible businesses include restaurants, retailers, or entertainment businesses located in the District of Columbia with less than $5 million in gross receipts for 2019, 2020 and 2021. To qualify,  businesses must demonstrate revenue declines or significant costs and financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the period from April 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2021. 

Overall, more than $350 million has been made available to those in the District through prior rounds of the Bridge Fund.

Keith Loria can be reached at Kloria@commercialobserver.com.