Workforce Shortage: Little Italy, Fulton Market Chicago Wishbone, and Hopleaf Restaurants Push for Restaurant Revitalization Fund Update

CHICAGO (WLS) – The family business One Little Italy started in 1909. Today, the third and fourth generations run the business in the hope that it will continue.

“Across the industry, it has been a struggle,” said Kim DiPofi, liaison officer for Restaurant Pompei. “It’s something none of us have come across, so we all learn as we go.”

DiPofi said she was hopeful when the federal government announced the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and certain groups should be given priority, such as owners of color and veterans. But DiPofi said they got nothing from that fund even though the owner, his father, was a Vietnam War veteran.

“We were optimistic it would help us with the maintenance of the roofs and the machinery, but when it didn’t, we’re here again, just fixing what we can,” said DiPofi.

DiPofi was among other local restaurateurs in the Chicago Restaurant Coalition who on Wednesday called on the federal government to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund with $ 60 billion.

Roger Romanelli of the Fulton Market Association criticized the government’s distribution of the original funds.

“It was a huge fund and it was massively underfunded,” said Romanelli, calling it “the worst disbursement of funds”.

Most of the coalition members did not receive any money from the fund.

Hopleaf’s Michael Roper said the COVID-19 pandemic still has an impact on businesses like his.

“People are talking about the post-COVID era,” Roper said. “We haven’t recovered. We’re still on thin ice.”

Joel Nickson of Wishbone added that he had to sell a property to keep his business going.

“Personally, I had to sell a property to make ends meet,” Nickson said. “We are looking at a very uncertain fall and winter.”

The coalition said some restaurants excluded from the funds needed more money before Thanksgiving to make it through 2022.

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