That Menu For Saving Small Businesses? Not Written For Restaurants

Posted: May 13, 2020

Ailene Siharath is a self-described fighter. She has used that mentality to survive two decades in an industry notorious for long hours and razor-thin profit margins.

Trying to keep two restaurants above water during the novel coronavirus pandemic has her considering all solutions, even one she previously would have previously thought unconscionable.

“I only fought to stay open because I thought I had a fighting chance,” Siharath said, who co-owns Katie’s Diner in Guthrie and The Hive Eatery in Edmond. “(After closing out) April’s numbers, frankly, I should’ve just shut down had I known what I know now and filed for unemployment. I would’ve come out ahead.”

Siharath said she’s had trouble figuring out how to meet the requirements for loan forgiveness from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which is designed to reduce the skyrocketing number of unemployment claims. Her experience mirrors that of some other Oklahoma City area restaurant owners.

The Coronavirus Storytelling Project

More than eight million restaurant workers have been laid off or furloughed since states forced dining room closures in mid-March due to coronavirus infections. Restaurant job losses represent a significant portion of the more than 30 million unemployment claims nationally. The industry was projected to lose $80 billion in sales through April, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Ailene Siharath is the co-owner of Katie’s Diner in Guthrie and The Hive Eatery in Edmond. (Photo provided by Aaron Gililland)
The federal government injected a second round of funding into the Paycheck Protection Program late last month, bringing its total to more than $650 billion. The loan, administered by the Small Business Association, turns into a grant if a business reaches 100 percent of its pre-pandemic payroll by the end of an eight-week period. If not, funds must be repaid over two years with 1 percent interest.

By Jacob Threadgill
May 12, 2020

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