Large hotel, restaurant companies getting small-business loans want to spend less of the money paying workers

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The Pennsylvania investment firm that owns the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove in Miami has applied for as many as 48 taxpayer-backed loans under an emergency program meant to help the nation’s smallest businesses hang on to their employees through the coronavirus pandemic.

A Maryland hotel company that did more than $1.5 billion in revenue last year has applied for more than 50 loans — and been approved for about 10 so far.

And Winter Park’s Ruth’s Hospitality Group Inc. — the parent company of Ruth’s Chris Steak House that made $42 million in profits last year and spent $41 million buying back stock and paying dividends to shareholders — revealed Monday that it has received $20 million through two small business loans.

Across the country, hotel and restaurant companies of all sizes are tapping into the “Paycheck Protection Program,” the $350 billion fund that Congress set up specifically for small businesses as part of an overall $2.2 trillion economic rescue plan.

Midsized and large hoteliers and restaurateurs are qualifying for the potentially forgivable loans — more than one, in many cases ― under special rules written into the program at the request of industry lobbyists, who argued that hospitality businesses have been uniquely devastated by coast-to-coast travel bans, shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders.


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