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Shelby County issues thousands in grants to help restaurants and bars closed due to COVID-19

Share the Tab grant to divide $450,000 between limited service restaurants and bars closed under Coronavirus health directives.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It was more than two weeks ago that bars in Shelby County were allowed to reopen, but business is nowhere near what it once was, so Shelby County government is trying to help.

A grant called Share the Tab is spreading around $450,000 to those business hoping to help them make up some of their losses due to COVID-19.

Edgar Mendez opened the Rumba Room Salsa club more than 10 years ago on South Main Street in Downtown Memphis.

"We're very grateful for them help us with that $10-thousand dollars because that's basically one month of not worrying about mortgage, MLGW, insurance and few more bills," said Mendez.   

The Coronavirus may have shuttered other bars and restaurants, but Medez intends to use  his $10,000 portion of the $450,000 Share the Tab grant from Shelby County to ensure he's not one of those, he knows it will take lots more than that.

"Ten thousand dollars, you put that in perspective. It's about a month and a half of  worth of bills for a business like ours because we depend solely on alcohol sales," said Mendez. 

The Rumba Room was one of 45 limited service restaurants and bars that that closed due to social distancing restrictions early in the summer.

Like many bars, Mendez has been pushed in another direction.

"I've pretty much opened up brand new as a restaurant, now. We do lunch and dinner for the last 2 months," said Mendez.

With his sister in the kitchen making authentic Hispanic dishes he believes he'll continue selling a are rare experience for years to come.

Robb Hunter owns Havana Mix Cigar Emporium, another business that deals in experiences.

"With the restrictions, particularly my kind of business, one that encourages the social gathering, you know the bars, the lounge the cigar shops and that sort of thing this has certainly been a challenge for us," said Hunter. 

Havana Mix may not check the essential business box, but you might categorize it as a therapy of sorts.

Hunter's once nearly 30 now down to 17 employees might agree with both.

"We're grateful for the $10-thousand dollar grant because that will help me retain the employment of several of my employees because they still have families they have to provide for," said Hunter. 

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