New Fargo Business Assistance Program approved to help bars and restaurants

Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 9:51 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Help is on the way for Fargo bars and restaurants.

Fargo City Commissioners Dave Piepkorn and Tony Gehrig asked that city leaders take action to help bars and restaurants struggling during the pandemic before it’s too late.

“We saw people losing their jobs, getting their hours cut dramatically,” Commissioner Gehrig said. “A server who might make $120 a day is now making $20 a day, so we knew that we needed to help them so they can keep the people hired and keep people going.”

Under the approved “Business Assistance Program”, the next six months of utility charges would be waived and bars and restaurants will be given a rebate to cover their food and alcohol license fees for 2021. This accounts for roughly $1.1 million in assistance.

Commissioner Gehrig also proposed forgiving next year’s property taxes, but later rescinded it. He says it needs more research, it’s complicated and more costly.

“This is the industry that is being targeted specifically by these mandates and these restrictions,” Commissioner Gehrig said. “Knowing we needed to help them or else we will lose a number of these establishments in Fargo. If there’s 450 of them and we lose 10 percent, that’s a lot of jobs.”

CEO and President of Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau, Charley Johnson, says he supports this movement to help bars and restaurants., but it’s a fine line to determine who receives assistance as so many industries are suffering including hotels, retail, and attractions.

“What if these restrictions are so harsh and business is so bad that a bunch of those people who are among our stakeholders don’t come out whole on the other end, don’t survive,” Johnson said. “We’ve already had a few hotels that have closed.”

Johnson says he agrees that bars and restaurants need help, going on to say we need to continue to fight for them as well as other businesses.

Commissioner Gehrig says the $1.1 million is not being pulled from taxpayers. The fees are simply not being collected, which will impact the city’s overall budget slightly.

At the next Fargo City Commission meeting, they’ll discuss more efforts to help businesses, including suspending utility shut-offs.

Commissioner Gehrig encourages you to reach out to commissioners if you have ideas on how to help.

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