Monterey County restaurants receive $3K grants to keep cooking

SALINAS — Restaurants that are still feeling the effects of the pandemic are receiving a helping of assistance in the form of grants to aid in the running of the businesses.

The boosts come from the California Restaurant Foundation in the form of $3,000 grants made possible by a $500,000 charitable contribution from the Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation Foundation, in turn helping 144 hometown restaurants including six in Monterey County.

The California Restaurant Foundation is a nonprofit supported by individuals, businesses and charitable foundations that share its mission of empowering California’s thriving restaurant workforce.

The contribution to the California Restaurant Foundation’s Restaurant Care Resilience Fund will help recipients of the grants pay for equipment upgrades to alleviate deferred maintenance, and for employee retention to help with industry-wide staffing shortages, exacerbated for the past two years by increased debt, losses and costs.

“Our hometown restaurants are the heartbeat of many local communities. They’re where we mark milestones, celebrate events big and small, and reconnect with family, friends and coworkers. We’re grateful for the California Restaurant Foundation’s leadership in helping this important industry rebound and recover so we can all keep making memories together,” said Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer Carla Peterman in a press release.

Grants were made available to California resident restaurant owners with fewer than three units and less than $3 million in revenue, and prioritized minority- and women-owned businesses. The combined $1 million in charitable contributions in 2021 and 2022 from PG&E and the California Restaurant Foundation have supported 319 local restaurants.

“Being selected to receive this grant is such an exciting feeling not only for me but for my whole family and everyone (that is) a part of the Aquino’s team,” said Gustavo Aquino-Bernardino, owner of Aquino’s Birrieria in Pacific Grove, and a grant recipient. “The funding that we have received from this grant not only benefits our kitchen staff but it helps everyone around us because we were able to right away upgrade our used kitchen equipment that was left behind from the previous restaurant for many years and onto new energy-efficient equipment that is better for the environment.”

Rosa Reyes, one of the owners of Red’s Donuts in Seaside along with her husband Rene Reyes, said the grant “really helps us, especially now with how things are.”

Reyes explained that the grant money has helped replace their old equipment with new, energy-efficient equipment and helped to keep employees working. She said it’s been a challenge trying to balance what they need with the needs of their customers.

Reyes said they have been a part of Red’s since 1996 when they worked with the previous owner before taking over the business in 2019. Then the pandemic hit and really tested their fortitude. But the Reyes family has weathered the COVID-19 storm, such as with increased prices for materials used to make their products. Rosa Reyes reports that business is still good since they have only minimally raised prices but it’s been hard. The grant money will certainly help their business, they said.

Other Monterey County businesses awarded grant money include English Ales Brewery in Marina, La Movida, and Main Street Bakery and Catering in Salinas, and The Oven Pizzeria in Seaside.

PG&E says it remains committed to providing ways for its small and medium business customers to save energy and money amid the economic hardships suffered during the pandemic.

Contributed by local news sources

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