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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Strong

Restaurant Relief! FREE Outdoor Heaters, PPE, Rent Help & More

BCC's Nicole Biscardi (center in green top) and the team at the Red Hook Winery

The Strong Buzz in Conversation with Nicole Biscardi, Restaurant & Hospitality Industry Specialist at the

Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce

Restaurants are suffering and need help with rent, PPE, outdoor seating, heating and more. Where to go? How to sift through all the resources and find the ones that matter? We spoke to Nicole Biscardi of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to learn how restaurants can access the resources and support they need no, more than ever. Please read and share!

Andrea Strong: Nicole, can you tell me a little bit about your role and what programs you oversee?

Nicole: Sure, I am the restaurant and hospitality industry specialist for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and I am focusing on rolling out a citywide program called The NYC Small Business Resource Network.

This is a recovery program developed and launched to protect 230,000 small businesses in NYC that are suffering in the wake of COVID. This is a five borough initiative funded by The Peter G. Peterson Foundation and coordinated city-wide by The Partnership for New York City. While it's available to businesses in all boroughs, it’s being implemented locally in each borough by each borough’s Chamber of Commerce.

There is so much damage that the pandemic has done to the hospitality industry and it’s not just restaurants. It’s event companies, event spaces, bars nightclubs, destination management companies, incoming tourism. These companies have zero business and they need a lot of help so we become that central point of contact. I have 50 cases myself that I oversee. I get about 10 week and we respond to clients within 72 hours. We have approximately 650 businesses in our caseload city-wide, 25% of which are currently in Brooklyn.

What sort of resources do you have for restaurants?

Think of us as a clearinghouse where entities share their free resources. This includes a wide array of resources, grants and support—pro bono lawyers, pro bono tax advisers, free consultations with people from Harvard Business School who can help with strategy and planning. We have Google classes, tech resources and more. Everything is FREE.

How can I get into the system?

All applications come through the website. You just fill out a simple intake form and identify your business needs and then the case is assigned to a business recovery specialist. I am a restaurant consultant who has worked in the business my entire life so I am specific to the restaurant industry, and we have 20 other general business recovery specialists working here with me.

What happens once your case is assigned?

Once we get a case, we call and we set up a time to chat. I think of it as therapy. I say, Tell me all your problems. We listen to the entire story, not pieces not parts, all of it. It's a long conversation. We evaluate the client’s problems and needs, and match them with the resources that make the most sense. We are here to listen to all the problems and attempt to fix them. You need a lawyer to renegotiate your lease? Do you need heaters? Do you need PPE? We are here for you. Just go to the website and fill out the intake form and we will call you.

How long is this program running for?

We launched on September 28, 2020 and anticipate running the program for an entire year.

What’s really important for restaurants to know going into cold weather?

This week we are adding $5000 grants for outdoor heaters for Brooklyn restaurants as part of our Bring Back Brooklyn Grant Fund. It has been for PPE, but now it is also for heaters. I actually have an equipment vendor who has let me pre-purchased a lot of them so I have them. All you have to do is tell me how many you want and I can get them delivered.

That’s incredible!

The reality is that people have no money to buy these things. Their personal credit cards are maxed out and they cannot get what they need. So we had to find a way to make this happen.

What if you’ve already purchased heaters? Can you get reimbursed?

Yes! If a restaurant already purchased heaters or air purification systems, just submit the receipts and it will be reimbursed. I get it. I have spoken to these people and I know they have shelled out the last of their personal savings to buy PPE and heaters. We are trying to meet this need.

If I received one grant can I get another?

Yes, You can get all the grants; one does not preclude you getting the other.

What else do you want people to know?

We don’t want people to have to change what they do and give up their dreams. We are going to work around this and get people through. We are trying to help people bridge the gap and figure things out.

Links to live by:

Fill out this form and get into the NYC Small Business Resource Network including all grants.

If you just want to apply for grants without being connected to a full suite of resources you can check out the Bring Back Brooklyn Grants page for PPE and Heaters and more!

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