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Midsouth restaurant owners eager to apply for COVID relief funding

Black restaurant owners say the already work against support opportunity odds and see COVID relief as assistance they so desperately need.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thirty-billion dollars in COVID relief will go to restaurants, bars and food trucks under funding just signed by President Joe Biden.

Businesses owned by women or veterans, as well as, economically and socially disadvantaged groups get priority during the first 21 days.

Local business owners say this help couldn't come sooner.

"We have been blessed during the pandemic to have been given the opportunity to do a commercial with Google."

Patrice Thompson's family has kept Soulsville's 4-Way Restaurant opened and Black owned for the last 20 of it's more than 70 years in business.

"Loving people. Sharing and caring and loving people. That's a great way to think," said Thompson.

The 4-Way was meant to serve the community from day one, but Thompson has seen support opportunities sail past her globally acclaimed establishment and COVID only added to the financial challenges.

That's why she doesn't take a Google commercial for granted.

BJ Chester-Tamayo, owner of Alcenia's Restaurant in Downtown Memphis has felt the same heat in the kitchen.

"I don't know about a lot of other small business, but for me without the funding I've been receiving Alcenia's could have possibly been closed," said Chester-Tamayo.

She has remained open during the pandemic only closing during February's winter storm and she's waiting for her chance to apply for relief funding.

"I'm still doing takeout and letting a couple of people sit in. Not too many because I still don't think we've turned the corner all the way yet," said Chester-Tamayo.

She employs people with families to feed, but precautions are the order of the day around Alcenia's.

Like the 4-Way, Alcenia's has a global fandom, but Chester-Tamayo has also been disappointed by disparaging comments from some people over the need for financial support that has often passed black restaurants for years.

"I've seen real negative comments that really, really hurt because people don't understand that we don't get the same help. We don't get the same loans we don't get the same support," said Chester-Tamayo.

Chester-Tamayo says in her experience, black businesses pay more for everything they need run a successful business.

She sees her work as serving up love on platters and will do it at any cost.

"You're put here for others  and when you do for others God's got you," said Chester-Tamayo. 

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