DES MOINES, Iowa — As America inches toward Election Day, the pandemic has some Iowa restaurant and brewery owners feeling like they are inching toward going out of business without government help.
“It was pretty tight, pretty touch and go for a while,” said Matt Glenn, head brewer and owner of 1717 Brewing in Des Moines’ East Village.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had hoped a deal could be brokered by Tuesday, but that wish is fleeting as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans’ $500 billion figure falls short of the Democrats’ $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package. Glenn said, “Playing politics and batting the ball back and forth doesn’t help small businesses like ours.”
1717 Brewing did not apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in March. “We didn’t have enough employees to really worry about paycheck protection because they had help with the unemployment benefits,” said Glenn.
Now, after enduring two separate shutdowns from Gov. Kim Reynolds, Glenn says a possible third could be devastating without relief. “I don’t know how we can’t avoid a third shutdown with the way that it’s going,” Glenn said.
Jeff Bruning owns Full Court Press Inc., which operates nearly a dozen local bars and restaurants in central Iowa. Applying for the PPP, Bruning saw firsthand how important the initial stimulus package was. “That help made the difference between disaster and holding our own,” Bruning said.
The timing of new government relief would be welcomed as the seasons change away from outdoor dining. “It would get us to spring. It would get us to where people are saying is the ultimate finish line, I would think,” said Bruning.
Seeing the pandemic’s death grip forcing closures to downtown Des Moines’ Vaudeville Mews and Valley Junction’s Vino 209 has Glenn hoping any new relief can go beyond just employee paychecks and extend to their business’ rent and utilities. Glenn said, “The guy that is collecting my rent, he has a small business, too. If we don’t pay him, his businesses go out of business and it’s a cyclical thing.”
Despite the outcome from our nation’s leaders, many business owners say it is the customer who may hold the most important boost to their bottom line. “The one that is still unknown is how long can we keep doing this and how long will our communities support us,” said Bruning.