(File photo)

SoCalGas tawarded $525,000 in grants to 162 independently owned restaurants across Central and Southern California, including 62 in the Los Angeles region on June 9.

Each restaurant received a $3,000 grant that can be used for things like equipment upgrades and employee retention programs. In addition, winners will also receive year-long support services from Wells Fargo which provides restaurant owners with resources to enhance and streamline their business.

The grants were awarded through a partnership with the California Restaurant Foundation’s $1.5 million Restaurants Care Resilience Fund which is funded by SoCalGas, Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric, and Wells Fargo.

“This partnership underscores SoCalGas’ commitment to driving positive change in diverse and underserved communities across California. We have committed to investing $50 million over the next five years to help advance a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture in the communities we serve, increase access to clean energy, and accelerate our climate and air quality goals,” said David Barrett, vice president and general counsel at SoCalGas and California Restaurant Foundation board member.

“Independent restaurants are critical to the fabric of our communities because they contribute to culture, they foster job growth, and contribute to the economic vitality of the neighborhoods they serve.”

“Independent and locally owned restaurants are the backbone of so many communities – they welcome and accommodate our first dates, post-game celebrations and the many times we just don’t feel like cooking. They add vibrancy and uniqueness to every city, which is why the Resilience Fund is so important,” said Alycia Harshfield, executive director of CRF.

“Restaurant owners have worked tirelessly over the last two years to keep doors open and feed their community, and we’re grateful to SoCalGas, PG&E, SDG&E and Wells Fargo for recognizing that it’s critical to continue to support and invest in local restaurants.”

The focus of the Restaurants Care Fund this year is on investment and long-term financial health. Recipients will be able to use the $3,000 grants for energy saving equipment upgrades and employee retention bonuses. Winners also receive year-long support services from Wells Fargo which provides restaurant owners with resources to enhance and streamline their business and a complimentary membership to the California Restaurant Association.

“SoCalGas and the California Restaurant Fund are really making a difference in the lives of small business owners. By providing these grants, they are helping our local favorite restaurants remain open and resilient,” said City of Rancho Cucamonga Mayor Dennis Michael.

“We are so thankful to SoCalGas for this grant. We have needed a new refrigerator in our kitchen for some time now, and with this funding, I want to upgrade it to a more energy-efficient model to better serve my customers and the planet,” said Claire Risoli, Owner of Pocha LA in Highland Park.

“Additionally, I would love to award my steadfast employees with a bonus on their paycheck for their loyalty and service through these trying times. They are the heart of Pocha and I know my food is not my greatest asset, my people are.”

“We are so grateful for the grant from SoCalGas. As a restaurant owner, the last two years have been uncontrollable and carried deep financial hurt. We were overwhelmed with excitement and emotion when we heard we were grant recipients. We are able to hang on and stay afloat with the help of donations like the one we received through the Restaurants Care Resilience Fund.  We are forever grateful,” said Barbara Sky Burrell, owner of Sky’s Gourmet Tacos.

Of the 356 total grant recipients, 72 percent of grant winners are female-owned restaurants and 83 percent identify as people of color owners. The average business ownership is 9.7 years, with nearly 80 restaurants operating for more than two decades.

To qualify, the restaurants needed to have no more than three independent locations and not exceed $3 million in revenue. To see the full list of grant recipients in your area, please visit www.restaurantscare.org/resilience.

For more information about the California Restaurant Foundation, Restaurants Care, or the Resilience Fund, please visit www.restaurantscare.org.