ST. GEORGE — The owners of two restaurants in Southern Utah are in a tough spot, along with many other restaurants and small business owners thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Randy and Tami Wong own the Black Bear Diner locations in St. George and Washington City. They, along with their employees, face a long road back from the economic disaster that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Revenues have dried up, making it difficult for them to keep paying their employees.
According to a press release issued by the U.S. Small Business Administration Utah District Office, the Wongs knew that SBA might be able to help, as they had previously participated in an SBA loan program during the recession of 2008.
“We lost it all in the recession and fought and clawed our way to a place where we could dream and work for a better future and actually applied and were approved for a loan of $2.9 million,” Randy Wong said in the press release. “Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought we could do and accomplish so much.”
So, when COVID-19 hit, Wong looked to the SBA’s new funding programs for help. He applied for both the Economic Injury Disaster Paycheck Protection Program loans, as he knew he had eligible expenses to qualify, such as payroll, rent, interest and utilities.
“COVID-19 started to impact us, so we adapted and (we) were settling in to deal with a drop of 30% in sales,” Wong said. “We (thought we) would fight and work our way through it. So, here we are now, seeing a $170,000 a week cash flow eliminated. First, we had no idea of how we would get through it, then the SBA said, ‘We can help,’ and now we have hope and are ready to work for our American dream.”
The Wongs were referred to and applied to Celtic Bank for the Paycheck Protection Program loan and were approved for the maximum amount they were eligible for at each of their restaurant locations.
“I just want to thank Len Erickson and Jeff Mather at the SBA Small Business Development Center in St. George. I couldn’t have done this without them,” Wong said. “I also want to thank the founders of Black Bear Diner, Bob Manly and Bruce Dean, because they really went out on a limb for me. And, lastly Celtic Bank, Jody and Kari, for working late into the night Friday and Saturday to participate in the PPP program.”
“We … are so grateful for the help of the SBA,” he added. “Wow did the SBA step up and give us and our 160 employees hope and faith that together we can get through this and come out the other side still living the American dream.”
To learn more about the U.S. Small Business Administration’s mission, visit www.sba.gov.