Want to Save a Historic Restaurant? You Can Nominate It for a $40,000 Grant

The National Trust for Preservation will award $1 million to storied restaurants

Commander Palace Restaurant
Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

What would cities like New York and New Orleans be without historic restaurants like Keens Steakhouse and Commander’s Palace? All over the country, well-established restaurants are fighting to survive the economic crisis caused by the recent pandemic. Some, like Keens, have taken to crowdfunding to support their staff, while others like Manhattan’s 21 Club have shut down for good. And while the Independent Restaurants Coalition has been campaigning for congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act, over 110,000 restaurants and bars have already been forced to close permanently in the past year.

Fortunately, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has teamed up with American Express to award $1 million in grants to historic restaurants all across the U.S.—and they need your help. Through the ‘Backing Historic Small Restaurants’ initiative, you can nominate your favorite historic restaurants for funding. Nominations are open until March 9, and 25 grants of $40,000 each will be awarded to struggling restaurants. Recipients can use the money to preserve and improve their physical spaces and online businesses or put it toward operating costs. American Express partners AT&T, Dell Technologies, Resy, Main Street America, and the National Restaurant Association will also chip in with products and services such as complimentary use of ResyOS for a year, assistance on small business marketing strategies, and virtual education and training tools.

“In the warmth and comfort of historic restaurants, we catch up with our friends, make business deals, and celebrate momentous occasions like graduations and marriage proposals, with our loved ones,” Katherine Malone-France, chief preservation officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, told TripSavvy. “The National Trust has joined with American Express to ensure that this pandemic does not erase those beautiful memories and that we continue to make new ones in these cultural treasures.”

To qualify, a restaurant must be facing significant economic hardship due to the pandemic, have contributed to the neighborhood’s history or community for at least 25 years, be small/independently owned, and be located in a historical building or neighborhood. Preference will be given to restaurants owned by BIPOC and those that have not already received significant pandemic-related aid. The grantees will be selected by the National Trust with input from American Express and an advisory committee assembled by Resy, which includes Deborah VanTrece, owner of Twisted Soul Cookhouse in Atlanta, Edouardo Jordan, chef of JuneBaby, Salare, and Lucinda Grain Bar in Seattle, and Kwame Onwuachi, former chef of Kith & Kin in Washington, D.C.

Nominating a restaurant is easy. Members of the public are asked to fill in a form stating the restaurant’s name and location and share a brief comment on what makes it an anchor in its community. Restaurant owners can also apply and will be asked to include additional details, such as any local, state, or national historic designations, whether a member of an underrepresented group owns the restaurant, and whether it has received any pandemic-related aid to date.

France-Malone added, “Saving historic restaurants is about saving a bit of ourselves and the places that enrich our lives, which is what the preservation work of the National Trust is all about.”

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  1. CNN. "10,000 of America's restaurants have closed in the past three months." December 9, 2020.