By: Julie Huss, The Eagle-Tribune
DERRY — Making sure the state's small businesses continue to get support from the federal government was a key issue on Friday morning as U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., paid a visit to one local restaurant to hear more about how COVID-19 has affected the business.
Shaheen met with T-Bones' co-owners Tom Boucher and Bill Greiner to hear more about how the federal Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, has given the restaurant the lifeline needed to continue to operate through the coronavirus pandemic. The restaurant proprietors also co-own Copper Door and Cactus Jack's businesses.
The visit also highlighted Shaheen's support to provide more relief to the Granite State's small businesses hit hard economically.
The Derry visit followed the senator's successful effort on the Senate floor to extend the PPP deadline until Aug. 8.
Gathered at an outdoor table at the restaurant on Crystal Avenue, Shaheen heard about how this local restaurant has kept its business going during the past several months of COVID-19 challenges.
That includes following all safety guidelines put down by the state for allowing 50% indoor capacity and a popular outdoor seating area as well.
T-Bones already had offered a small, garden-style outdoor area during warm months before the virus hit, but then installed a large tent in the front parking lot to accommodate its patrons for outdoor and safely distanced seating.
Once the weather turns cooler, that option will go away.
"We are very concerned when it gets colder," Boucher said, adding the additional outdoor dining space has helped increase the restaurant's sales up about 40%.
"And people are just not that comfortable inside," Boucher added.
Greiner said once COVID-19 hit, the restaurant did suffer by losing indoor dining sales, but kept up with a robust take-out business. He said it was an added expense to install the outdoor tent area for dining in the parking lot.
"We know we are making the sacrifices needed, but we will (eventually) lose our outdoor dining capacity" Greiner said.
The PPP funding has been a lifeline for small businesses in New Hampshire, with more than $2.5 billion in assistance disbursed to more than 24,000 businesses across the state.
But, many businesses receiving the support are still struggling. Shaheen has called for the passage of the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Program (P4) Act, legislation she introduced, that would allow small businesses to access a second round of PPP loans.
The senator said the stalemate in Washington, D.C., over the next round of potential COVID-19 relief funding could be solved, but there are several sticking points between the Republicans and Democrats.
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