San Antonio approves grants for businesses along St. Mary's Strip, other construction zones

Small businesses in 15 construction zones would be eligible of grants for up to $35,000, but some worry that's not enough.

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click to enlarge San Antonio District 1 City Councilman Mario Bravo speaks with St. Mary's Strip business owners during a tense meeting last year. - Sanford Nowlin
Sanford Nowlin
San Antonio District 1 City Councilman Mario Bravo speaks with St. Mary's Strip business owners during a tense meeting last year.
Businesses harmed by seemingly unending construction projects on the St. Mary's strip and along other San Antonio thoroughfares will be eligible for grants of up to $35,000 under a new city program to cover lost revenue.

San Antonio will spend $2.25 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to aid local businesses who have suffered from the one-two punch of the pandemic and barricaded streets, officials said Wednesday during a city council briefing.

Brenda Hicks-Sorensen, director of the city's economic development department, said the city could start accepting applications for the money as soon as February 13, with cash hitting their accounts by March 20.

Although businesses suffering along the St. Mary's Strip were the primary focus of Wednesday's meeting, the funds will be available to small businesses in 15 construction zones, including Broadway, Historic Old Highway 90 and North New Braunfels Avenue, officials said.

click to enlarge A slide presented by city officials lists all of the construction zones covered under the program. - COVID-19 and Construction Recovery Grant Program
COVID-19 and Construction Recovery Grant Program
A slide presented by city officials lists all of the construction zones covered under the program.

To be eligible, businesses within those zones must prove that recent construction led to a decline in 2021 revenue of at least $10,000. They also must have opened before Jan. 1, 2021, and still be in operation when they submit an application.

Businesses that meet the criteria are eligible for a one-time grant from $10,000 to $35,000, depending on how much revenue they lost. Microlender LiftFund will manage the process.

Several weeks ago, city officials proposed a $400,000 kitty to help bars, restaurants and shops hurt by construction boost their marketing budgets. Businesses owners met that plan with ridicule, saying the paltry offer wouldn't help them with payroll, rents and other pressing needs.

"I'm worried we're getting past the point where some of these businesses can even recover," Aaron Peña, owner of St. Mary's Strip cocktail lounge The Squeezebox recently told the Current.

District 1 City Councilman Mario Bravo, whose district includes the St. Mary's Strip, acknowledged that even the new grants are meager compared to what some businesses have lost over recent years.

"Yesterday, we met with the Broadway business owners, and they said $35,000 wasn't enough," he said. "And we heard that from someone that's lost over $1 million."

Even with the $2.25 million in new funding, only 64 businesses would be able to receive $35,000 grants, assuming all qualify for the maximum amount.

"I understand that this is not going to make anybody whole, but my No. 1 priority is to make sure that nobody goes out of business," Bravo said.

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