BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Editor
Back in early December, Oakland County officials approached the city of Clarkston, as well as other cities, letting them know there were approximately $10-11 million in funds remaining from the CARES Act grant program that could be used to help ailing local restaurants.
At the January 11 Clarkston City Council meeting, details were discussed as to how the city will benefit from the program.
“All businesses are struggling, but restaurants in particular,” said Clarkston City Manager Jonathan Smith. “We sat down in an effort to help these restaurants expand their outdoor seating and resuming some semblance of normalcy.”
This grant came to fruition before the Feb. 1 date when orders were lifted on bars and restaurants that allowed those establishments to return to dining in at 25 percent capacity, something Smith alluded to at the virtual meeting on January 11.
“They will be back struggling to get additional seating,” said Smith. “They can’t do it inside, so it will have to be outside. We’re hoping COVID is starting to wind down, but the numbers don’t show that yet. We hope with the numbers dipping and with the vaccine restaurants will reopen and then these supplies will really become important.”
Smith added the county procured several items, including propane heaters, refill tanks, portable greenhouses, igloos, and cleaning and disinfecting supplies.
“The county came up with an allocation and fortunately, we were able to get all of our allocation with possibly some additional funds coming,” Smith said. “In this first phase, $11,000 was our allocation and it was all about the number of restaurants that you have in your community. I’m not sure how they did the math, but this is our allocation and we’re pleased to get what we got here.
“I’ve rolled all this information out to the restaurants and they have all been very responsive and thankful for the supplies.”
One clarification Smith noted is the supplies are not a gift to each restaurant.
“They are owned by the city; the county is giving them to the city to be doled out on an as-needed basis,” explained Smith. “The key to saying that these are not being given to the businesses is because if we see that, for example, a restaurant that we are giving heaters to or a greenhouse to are not using them, we would ask for them back and redistribute them to somebody that can use them and can benefit from them.”
Smith said this will be part of the agreement with the restaurant owners.
“The whole idea behind this grant is to get the help out there,” Smith said. “There could potentially be some rebalancing is my point with this allocation if we see that is necessary.”
There is zero cost to the city, said Smith.
“This is something where we are acting as the middle man, if you will, between the county and the restaurants,” Smith said. “We’ll help out in any way we can. We think this is a great program.”
As to how the distribution was decided on by the city, Smith said they looked at where “we could get the most bang for our buck.”
Two greenhouses went to The Fed first as Smith said, “They are really struggling.”
“They asked for 10 and we gave them two,” said Smith. “It was largely on me to determine the allocation and there were a lot of factors involved to find a fair and equitable distribution.
“If we find that something is not working, that it is too much or too little, we can revisit this. I’m told there is a second phase coming where we can get more products or potentially cash if there is something not on this list that the restaurants desperately need.”
The Village Cafe will utilize a greenhouse on the Washington Street side of the restaurant.