Throughout the pandemic, bars and restaurants have been ordered to close.By Jon Delano

HARRISBURG (KDKA) – On Wednesday, Governor Tom Wolf unveiled a $145 million hospitality relief program to pump dollars into smaller restaurants and bars hard hit by the pandemic.

It’s a special state program aimed particularly at those who have missed out on earlier government dollars.

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With the government shutting down or limiting bars and restaurants over the past year — and many customers naturally reluctant to sit in one — this pandemic has taken a toll.

“The hospitality industry has really been hurt, probably the most,” Dennis Davin, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

Like many small business owners, Chef Kevin Watson, who owns the Chef’s Table in the North Hills, has applied a couple times for PPP (Payroll Protection Plan) and other assistance.

“I’ve applied for that and I have received zero dollars. No money at all,” says Watson.

Now a $145 million state hospitality relief program to award grants — not loans — ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 gives restaurateurs some hope.

“I think it’s fantastic because we need it,” says Watson.

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Davin, whose department is responsible for this money, says certain bars and restaurants will get priority.

“What we’re doing is having them prioritize especially businesses that haven’t received any assistance previously,” says Davin.

The dollars will get distributed by county-designated organizations based on population.

For example, Allegheny County will get just under $14 million for its bars and restaurants, Westmoreland will get just under $4 million, Washington will receive about $2.3 million, and Beaver will get just under $2 million.

Chef Watson hopes it comes through this time.

“I want to be open. I want to stay open. I do need some – I could use some support,” says Watson.

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Again, this money is targeted to smaller venues that were in operation a year ago. Besides priority to those with no state or federal assistance to date, those shut down by the governor’s order and those who lost more than half their gross receipts also get priority.