Story at a glance

  • The restaurant industry has been devastated by the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • American Express is offering grants to 25 small restaurants with historic significance to keep them afloat.
  • The initiative is prioritizing businesses owned by underrepresented groups, including people of color and women, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

In times of need, Americans often come together to save cherished businesses and community establishments — knowing that it takes a village. 

Now, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is partnering with American Express to offer $1 million in grants to 25 historic and culturally significant restaurants in the United States through the "Backing Historic Small Restaurants” grant program.


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“For generations, our nation’s oldest and most historic small restaurants have been safe spaces for customers to share meals, ideas, and their culture. They are at the heart of our neighborhoods, serve our communities, and help advance cultural and social change for those who live there,” said Colleen Taylor, President of Merchant Services for American Express in the United States, in a statement. “Many have stood the test of time, but the pandemic has tested them in ways they could have never imagined.”

While the CARES Act offered some relief, it didn’t reach everyone. In November, a study revealed that Paycheck Protection Program white applicants looking to secure Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans were treated more fairly than Black and Hispanic applicants. These communities have already been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic and proposed policy changes are coming too late for some.


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With this in mind, the initiative is prioritizing businesses owned by underrepresented groups, including people of color and women, that have not already received significant COVID-19-related aid. To be eligible, small, independently owned restaurants in historic buildings or neighborhoods must show that they have contributed to the history or the identity of their community for at least 25 years and experienced significant financial hardship due to the pandemic.

“American entrepreneurship is a defining aspect of our nation’s heritage, and historic commercial landmarks are vital to community identity and economics,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in a statement. “This initiative acknowledges that legacy restaurants are not only welcoming spaces where people break bread, but also gathering places where history is made in meaningful ways, small and large, over and over again. Though hard hit by the pandemic, preserving these treasures helps restore our connectedness and commercial life.”  


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Published on Feb 23, 2021