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LA County restaurant owners, operators get $20,000 grants from DoorDash
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Twenty-five Los Angeles County restaurant owners and operators who have struggled to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic are getting $20,000 grants and business support from DoorDash.

The San Francisco-based food delivery company will provide the help through its Main Street Strong Accelerator program in partnership with Accion Opportunity Fund, a nonprofit small business lender and support organization.

The move comes as L.A. County restaurants moved into the orange tier on Monday. That less restrictive stage in California’s color-coded reopening plan boosted indoor dining from 25% to 50% of occupancy or 200 people – whichever is less.

Shant Bogharian helps customers at his family’s restaurant, Koko’s Mediterranean Cafe in Pasadena, Monday, Apr. 5, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

People wait in line at Koko’s Mediterranean Cafe in Pasadena, Monday, Apr. 5, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Helping the hardest hit

The program targets restaurants owned or operated by women, immigrants and people of color that have been disproportionately impacted by economic constraints of the health crisis. Recipients participate in an eight-week restaurant operator course that includes hands-on mentorship and small business advice.

The 25 L.A. County recipients will get $10,000 of the grant money up front and the remainder after they’ve completed the eight-week business course. The program is available to restaurants regardless of whether they are current DoorDash partners.

“We were looking for businesses that have made an impact on their communities through jobs and community support,” DoorDash spokeswoman Tasia Hawkins said. “Restaurants can be the center of a community.”

The flood of nationwide applicants  was competitive, Hawkins said, with a total of 100 owners and operators selected. Other recipients are in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia.

The local eateries include Amara Kitchen in Los Angeles, BlaqHaus NoHo in North Hollywood, Chulita in Venice, Koko’s Mediterranean Cafe in Pasadena, Four Sea Restaurant in San Gabriel, Lavender Blue Restaurant Lounge in Inglewood, Sweet Blessings by Cyler in Van Nuys and Spicy Sugar in Long Beach, among others.

Sosy Bogharian, owner of Koko’s Mediterranean Cafe in Pasadena, said it’s been difficult running a restaurant while also adhering to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Tough doesn’t even begin to describe it,” the 62-year-old Pasadena resident said. “When the pandemic first hit we were only doing takeout and delivery. That took away 90% of our orders. Then outdoor dining was finally allowed, but the 6-foot distance between tables meant we could only have three.”

The latest mandate allowing expanded capacity for indoor dining won’t help much either, Bogharian said, because Koko’s dining area is small and tables must remain 8 feet apart.

She plans to put the $20,000 grant to good use.

“That will help us try to get back on our feet,” Bogharian said. “We’re an older establishment, so we’ll use some of that money to try to modernize and get a new website with new ordering capabilities. We’re going to rebrand ourselves and be more accommodating of the new normal.”

Spicy Sugar, a small Thai restaurant in Long Beach, is also getting a leg-up from DoorDash.

“I’m really excited that I was chosen,” owner Jaratporn Sungkamee said. “This will help us coming back from the pandemic. It was really difficult being shut down all that time. I had to lay off three people.”

She used the downtime to complete some upgrades.

“I redid the whole dining area with new lighting, new chairs and new tables,” Sungkamee said. “I wanted to give it a new look once we reopened.”

Sungkamee plans to use her $20,000 grant to hire three more workers, buy new plates, install an air-conditioning system and hire a public relations firm to promote the eatery.
A variety of business topics

DoorDash’s Accelerator programming kicked off Monday with virtual instruction and discussion courses that will cover a broad range of topics from “Finding Your Niche” and “Permits, Licensing, Regulations and all Things Legal,”  to “Create the Right Menu” and “Integrate Technology.”

Brian Williams, chief operating officer with the Los Angeles Urban League, said the past year has brought about “unprecedented challenges” for businesses.

“Thank you to DoorDash for helping provide these local restaurants with the access to capital and other resources that will be critical for them to continue to thrive,” Williams said in a statement.

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