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Thursday, October 30, 2014

National Grid donates $1.1 million to local businesses
(Page 2 of 2)
Anthony Rifilato/Herald
Jason Schatzberg and Andrea Fitzgerald, of Paninis & Bikinis, are among the owners of 35 local businesses that received grants from National Grid to help rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.

“We suffered a large amount of damage and were footing the restoration money out of pocket,” said P.J. Kavanagh, owner of the Saloon and the Inn, both of which reopened last month. “This grant aid helped us to pay the bills for repair, and this funding has been critical in jump-starting our business so it’s up and running for the summer season, and other businesses — we need the other businesses back as well.”

Kavanagh and other business owners said that they learned about the National Grid grants through the Chamber, which has been telling its members about the program since January. “We were the first ones to roll it out,” said the Chamber’s executive vice president, Mark Tannenbaum. “We were holding meetings all over the place, and we started talking to our members, sending out emails each week. We got more and more people who would sign up. Over the last few weeks, they’ve been banging out a lot of checks.”

Tannenbaum said that approximately 30 percent of Long Beach businesses remain closed, though some may reopen under new ownership. Still, with the average business owner dealing with repair costs ranging from $25,000 to $60,000, the National Grid grant program, he said, has proved to be a more immediate source of funding for businesses than, say, SBA loans. “FEMA and SBA is just a disaster — there’s too much red tape,” Tannenbaum said. “And the money that was supposedly put there by the government hasn’t seen its way to the average homeowner or small business owner yet. With the National Grid program, it takes three to five weeks to get approval from them, and that’s quick. Paninis & Bikinis are one of those businesses that if they didn’t have help, they wouldn’t have been able to reopen.”

Schatzberg echoed that sentiment, saying that he would not have been able to cover the cost of repairs on his own. He said he would reopen with a reconfigured space and a new menu, along with table service offering fare from local farms out East.

“I wasn’t able to cover any costs out of my pocket because I had just finished expanding in July,” he said. “Like everything, it’s a process, and I can honestly say that I’ve received more help from National Grid than any other agency.”

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