FAQs - Backing Historic Small Restaurants

Here, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions for the Backing Historic Small Restaurants program. If you find your question is not addressed below, contact historicrestaurants@savingplaces.org.

All nominations and applications submitted through SavingPlaces.org are subject to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s privacy policy and terms of use.

Note: Nominations closed at 11:59 p.m. ET on March 9, 2021. Selected restaurants will be notified by early May.

Program Overview

What is the deadline for nominating a restaurant?

The program was launched on February 23, 2021. The deadline for nominations was March 9, 2021 at 11:59 PM EST.

What is the nomination process?

Restaurant lovers and restaurant owners may identify qualifying restaurants here. Please see below for selection criteria and eligibility to suggest a restaurant that would be a great fit.

Will it help if I ask my customers to also nominate my restaurant so they can show their support?

The number of nominations will not impact final selection. Members of the general public may suggest a restaurant, but a restaurant owner’s application will allow for more information toward final consideration.

What are the selection criteria for evaluating restaurants?

The grant selection criteria for eligible U.S. small historic restaurants is as follows:

  • Have experienced significant financial hardship due to the impacts of the pandemic.
  • Have operated and contributed to the neighborhood’s history and/or the identity for at least 25 years.
  • Be a small/independently owned restaurant located in a historic building and/or historic neighborhood.
  • Preference will be given to businesses owned by underrepresented groups, including People of Color and women.
  • Priority will be given to small restaurants who have not already received significant COVID-19 related aid.

What is the program timeline?

  • February 23: Program Announced
  • March 9: Public Nomination Period Closes at 11:59 PM EST
  • Late-March: Outreach to Finalists Begins – Additional Documentation Requested
  • Mid-April: Notification to Selected Restaurants
  • May: Restaurants Publicly Announced
  • May-June: Improvement Projects Underway
  • July: Project Completion

What is the notification process for nominated restaurants?

Top finalists will be contacted by late-March. Due to the high volume of submissions, restaurants that do not make it to a final round will not receive separate correspondence.

Finalists who are contacted in March will be prompted to submit additional materials, including expanded narratives, financial information, and projects plans and budgets, and high-resolution photography.


Who can apply?

During the February 23–March 9 nomination period, members of the general public may suggest a restaurant for consideration; there may be follow up by program staff to determine whether the restaurant should submit an application. Restaurant owners may submit an application, which allows the opportunity to provide more information.

Who can receive funds?

Funding will be awarded directly to the 25 awarded historic small restaurants.

Are there target populations for these grants?

Although not exclusive, preference will be given to businesses owned by underrepresented groups, including People of Color and women, disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Are there specific eligible uses of funds?

The grants can be used for up to 25% general operating costs and the remaining 75% for exterior, public-facing improvements to historic buildings including (but not limited to) murals, awnings, lighting, signage upgrades, painting or cleaning of exterior facades, and/or the creation of outdoor seating areas. Updates to websites for better operations may be permitted. Projects that prioritize scope towards exterior improvements will be most competitive. Grant funds may not be used for work completed prior to receipt of the grant.

All proposed rehabilitation and/or preservation work and improvements must be submitted to and approved in advance by the National Trust and must be conducted in accordance with local design guidelines and/or the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

Finalists will be given additional information regarding restrictions on activities that would affect historically disproportionally impacted by the pandemic significant components of the property.

If I am leasing space for my restaurant, is my restaurant still eligible?

Yes, restaurant groups who are building tenants are eligible to apply. If selected, building owner consent forms will be required prior to disbursement of grant funds.

What are the qualifications of a “small” restaurant?

For the purposes of this program, a small restaurant is one with fewer than 100 employees, recognized as a business (not a contractor or self-employed), and not part of a national franchise.

My restaurant is temporarily closed because of the pandemic and restrictions in my area. Am I still eligible to apply?

Restaurants operating in takeout-only mode and restaurants operating in limited capacity are still eligible to apply. Restaurants temporarily closed must be able to demonstrate viability in reopening.

Grant Program Details

What is the awarded grant amount?

Each of the 25 selected restaurants will receive a $40,000 grant with additional support from program partners. The selected restaurants will enter into a grant agreement with the National Trust outlining the terms and conditions of the grant.

How will the funds be disbursed?

Selected restaurants will receive funding in three payments, (1) one $20,000 initial payment within 45 days of execution of the grant agreement, (2) one $10,000 payment upon 50% completion of public-facing improvements, (3) one $10,000 payment upon 100% completion of public-facing improvements. Grantees will be required to submit documentation on the work completed to date to receive grant distributions as specified below.

How will selected restaurants demonstrate completion towards the project?

Restaurants must demonstrate 50% project completion by submitting photos and other predetermined metrics that provide evidence of their original completion schedule’s milestones. Restaurants must demonstrate 100% completion through photographs showing completed projects and other predetermined metrics that provide evidence for their original completion schedule’s milestones.

Is there any technical assistance available to help me complete the upgrades at my restaurant if selected?

Yes, selected restaurants will receive technical assistance to provide guidance and feedback on proposed exterior improvements and restorations.

What is the expected completion date of projects?

Selected restaurants must complete exterior improvements by July 2, 2021. Any changes to the project completion date must be approved in advance by the National Trust. Final grant disbursements will only be made once the restaurant has completed their approved project(s).

Will there be any media coverage about the 25 restaurants that are selected?

Yes, the National Trust and American Express will spotlight selected restaurants. The partners also anticipate additional media outlets to incorporate coverage of the program and business owners based on their readership.

Join us for PastForward Online 2021, the historic preservation event of the year, November 2-5, 2021.

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