The entrance to Spoetzl Brewery.
Spoetzl Brewery donated $500,000 to the Texas Restaurant Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to the state's independent restaurants impacted by COVID-19. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The century-old maker of Shiner Bock beer announced Thursday it is donating $500,000 to help keep Texas restaurants afloat during the pandemic.

The donation by Spoetzl Brewery to the Texas Restaurant Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to the state’s independent restaurants impacted by COVID-19 came just as the sponsoring organization was forced to temporarily close its online application portal.

“We received such an overwhelming number of grant requests in the first 72 hours that it was just the responsible thing to do to shut down the application portal until we could catch up and disperse the funds,” said Joe Monastero, chief strategist and operations manager for the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA).

“The good news is that because of the Shiner donation and a couple of other ones that will be coming through, over the next week we’ll be able to reach the 75 percent threshold of issuing grants to those who’ve already submitted applications and been approved.”

The Texas Restaurant Relief Fund, an initiative of the TRA’s Education Foundation, will give grants of up to $5,000 per eatery in order to keep restaurant businesses in operation and their employees working.

“All of us have been affected by COVID-19,” said Jimmy Mauric, Shiner brewmaster. “Our brewery is fortunate to continue brewing with enhanced health and safety measures. But we are saddened to know that restaurants and bars throughout Texas — that are independent like us — are in distress. We hope that our collective fundraising efforts will help them respond to the challenges that they’re facing.”

Data released Friday by the Small Business Administration (SBA) showed that the accommodation and food service industry had so far been approved for $30.5 billion, or just under 9 percent of the total Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan dollars approved since the program opened on April 3. Four other industries received greater percentages.

But the SBA said Thursday the program was drained of the initial $349 billion in funding it had started with. The same day, a representative of TRA reported that only 4.5 percent of federal relief funding through the CARES Act went to the restaurant industry.

“At a time when the nation’s restaurant industry is on the verge of collapse due to government-mandated closures, the one item promised to them by the federal government – dedicated relief – did not arrive,” said the statement sent by Anna Tauzin, chief revenue and innovation officer for TRA. She said PPP is unattainable for most restaurants, due to a variety of factors, and thus not helpful for owners in trying to reopen and get their businesses going again.

The TRA Education Foundation has set a $10 million goal to support the state’s independently owned restaurants. Thus far, it has approved $2 million in grants for 350 restaurants.

Monastero said he expects the application portal to open again next week.

“This is an unprecedented time for our industry, fighting a never-before-seen battle for survival,” stated Emily Williams Knight, TRA Education Foundation president and CEO.

“In times of crisis, restaurants are always on the front lines, feeding victims and first responders; in this crisis, restaurants are among the victims,” Knight added. “Together with amazing partners like Spoetzl Brewery, we can support restaurants and their employees, the heart of our communities, stay in operation and weather this storm.”

Other major donors to the fund include Exxon Mobile, the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas, Republic National Distributing Company, and Texas Mutual Insurance Company.

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.