DENVER — For the first time in over a year, Shannon Hardenbrook feels like she's finally on more stable ground.
"I was able to bring back employees and actually start paying people again instead of asking my family to volunteer," said Hardenbrook, owner of The Mac Shack, a gourmet mac and cheese food truck with a brick and mortar location.
She's operated the business for four years. During the pandemic while truck sales declined, her brick and mortar location lost even more revenue.
"On the food truck, we dropped about 70%. In the brick and mortar, 90%," she said.
To avoid closing her standalone restaurant, Hardenbrook, like other small business owners, applied for a slew of federal financial aid.
"We were two months away, two months away from depleting our savings completely," Hardenbrook said. "We got both of the PPP loans, which definitely helped us, however, that went to pay our employees and not our rent."
She also applied for money through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, offered by the Small Business Administration to help eligible businesses impacted by COVID-19.
The SBA had said women-owned, veteran-owned, socially and economically disadvantaged-owned and those owned by people of undeserved populations would be prioritized. In addition, an emphasis was placed on small, mom-and-pop shops.
Across the country, more than 100,000 restaurants were awarded $28.6 billion. Hardenbrook's business was not one of them, but about 17,000 others in Colorado did receive money.
On Tuesday, the fund officially closed.
According to RRF award allocation data, in Colorado, three Golden Corral locations received a combined $6.5 million. Several smaller grants went to franchisees of large chains, like Dunkin' Donuts, CiCi's Pizza and Subway.
"I'm a little surprised that it's a small business grant program, and I wouldn't really consider somebody that owns 20 locations, or five, or seven locations really small business," Hardenbrook said.
Denver7 reached out to the SBA's Colorado office for more details on how awards were selected.
The Colorado Restaurant Association told Denver7 they're pushing for Colorado's legislators to approve theRestaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021, so more restaurants can receive help.
"I hope they all vote to replenish the grants," Hardenbrook said. "I mean, we were shut down basically through no fault of our own."