Restaurants to receive immediate help from Chamber

by Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan restaurants have some relief coming their way from the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber will utilize $150,000 of unrestricted money to give restaurants $5,000 to $10,000 based on each restaurant’s gross revenues.

Originally, the Chamber asked the City if there was a way to utilize bed tax (3%) monies to help keep these restaurants in business. Finance Director Steve Thornton investigated the idea and stated that Lodging Tax fund use regulations can not be changed for that purpose. “Using bed tax money for grants is off the table because it is not an allowed use,” Thornton said.

Mike Steele, Chamber Director, said the Chamber has several different pots of money it can shift to a grant program to help the restaurants weather the restrictive rules that keep them shut down except for outside dining and/or takeout. “The idea is to match gross receipts with a minimum grant of $5,000 and a maximum grant of $10,000,” said Steele. He added it would be distributed on a first come-first serve basis. “Restaurants have been hard hit because of the 25% occupancy issue.”

Mayor Bob Goedde told the Council that he had a conversation with Senator Hawkins and he has been invited to sit on a Governor’s team meeting Wednesday, December 3 to seek ways to change the usage regulations on 3% bed tax monies.

Councilman Chris Baker voiced concern about fairness to other businesses. Steele replied that over the past 10 months Chamber personnel have visited with retail businesses once a week to gauge how their operations were fairing during the pandemic. “Retail has done very, very well, but restaurants have been limited in every scope from being shut down.”

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth asked it the grants were enough to make a difference? Steele replied that a straw poll taken with the restaurant owners indicated that the grants would be helpful.

Councilman Ty Witt stated that he is concerned about other businesses that have been shut down by the pandemic, like gymnasiums and the movie theater. “I’m also concerned about who gets the money,” said Witt. “The business or the employees who have lost their jobs.”

Steele replied to Witt’s question that the funding would go directly to the business owners to help with rent and utilities. However, he agreed with Witt’s concern about businesses that have shut down because of the pandemic and stated that the Chamber would be helping them receive loans or grants from the State.

Another round of funding is expected to be available on December 3 which includes $70 million dollars with $40 million in grants and the rest as loans.

Councilman John Olson asked if there had been any blowback from the Pierce County funding program. Steele replied that Pierce County businesses said it has been a life saver. Their program grants a lot more dollars than proposed by the Chamber.

Councilman Peter Jamtgaard urged the community to support the local businesses. McCardle added that the success of the program depends on community support.

Hollingsworth added that he likes the program of using unrestricted money, but would like to see some funding made available for businesses like gyms or others that have had to shut completely down because of the Governor’s orders.

The program will begin on December 7.

The Council unanimously approved funding requests from the following organizations:

  • Thrive ($15,000)
  • Meals on Wheels ($4,500)
  • Lake Chelan Food Bank ($5,000)
  • Chelan Valley Hope ($15,000)

The Rotary request for $50,000 to purchase a commercial glass crusher was approved with the following contingencies being met.

  • The Rotary provide a five year operations and business plan
  • A negotiation resulting in an operating agreement with the City, County, Rotary and other organizations (wineries, etc).

Hollingsworth liked the wording in the material presented to Council, but wants to see a detailed business plan. “We are accepting an element of risk,” said Hollingsworth. “I would like to see the City share that risk with the County and other stakeholders.”

A share in the cost of the crusher and operations could come from the County implementing a bottle charge on glass products (mostly wine).

The other issue is that the crusher be located in Chelan because of the number of wineries, and not in Wenatchee.

Mayor Bob Goedde added that nothing would be done until he, the City Administrator and Public Works Director go over the necessary criteria for volunteers to run the crusher like forklift operators licenses and all other related liability aspects

The last time the City recycled glass it amounted to 400 tons per year. “We can manage that in one day a week,” said Witt who added that it would take 4 to 5 volunteers to run glass on Saturdays. “It can crush one to two tons per hour.”

The Council unanimously approved setting the $50,000 aside until all of the City’s criteria are met.

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