Ky. restaurants join national plea for federal relief to survive the pandemic

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Restaurants and bars are some of the hardest hit businesses during the pandemic.

Now, the industry is calling on the federal government to help in the next stimulus package.

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The RESTAURANTS act, is a $120 billion grant program specifically for independently owned restaurants.

“We have to step up and support small places in our communities all across the country, or we’re going to lose them,” Ouita Michel, chef and restaurant owner, said.

She has been advocating for the bill with The Independent Restaurant Coalition, IRC, a national organization pushing for passage of The Restaurants Act.

According to the IRC, COVID-19 threatens to close 85% of independent restaurants nationwide.

“The RESTAURANTS act helps build us a bridge through this pandemic to the other side, so we can keep our restaurant community alive,” Ouita Michel said.

She’s been specifically calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to hear Kentuckians plea to include the act as Congress continues negotiations of the HEALS act.

In the Commonwealth bourbon and restaurants go together. And a household name in the bourbon world is Pappy’s, from Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery.

Preston Van Winkle said he is using his platform to help the cause.

“Just being in a position to have a little bit of a voice. We’re going to do everything we can,” he said.

Van winkle says distilleries might not be hit as hard right now, but Kentucky is interconnected.

“The trickle down effect is going to be massive,” Van Winkle said.

And it’s happening fast. Michel said some restaurants might not survive if the act doesn’t pass.

“I mean that is something that’s very unique about the restaurant business, we’re really in the business of making people happy, to nourish them and feed them,” Michel said.

Serving happiness and it’s called comfort food for a reason.

Michel and Van Winkle hope Congress can help save thousands from this current state of uncomfortable.

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Monica Harkins joined the ABC 36 News team in June 2019 as a Multimedia journalist and Anchor/Producer. She’s born and raised in Austin, Texas and headed “North,” as she calls it, to study broadcast journalism and business at the University of Missouri. While at Mizzou she anchored and reported for KOMU 8 News, an NBC affiliate in Columbia, Missouri all four years. During her childhood she played almost every sport, but they always called her “Hollywood” for her love of theatre. In high school, she realized her excitement for theatre and performing was only a small piece of the puzzle. It’s story telling that’s her passion. She’s especially passionate about social media and creative platforms to tell stories. Her most recent experiment is being a FAA certified drone pilot. As a proud Texan she says she’s made of country music, Southern hospitality and Sweet Tea. When she’s not at work you can find her trying new recipes, listening to crime podcasts, reading the latest romance novel or rockin’ out to live music with friends. She says she’s only a tweet or Facebook message away, so say hi and send her the latest on your community. @MonicaHarkinstv or Mharkins@wtvq.com