Antonio Vitolo owns Jake's Bar and Grill in Harriman, Tennessee. As it has been for virtually every American restaurant owner, the last year has been difficult for Vitolo because of coronavirus as well as the response from the federal, state, and local government. But he got some good news last week from a federal appeals court.
Vitolo had sought help under the Small Business Administration's Restaurant Revitalization Fund. But his attorneys at Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) informed him the government had been making women and minorities a priority.
In late May, U.S. District Judge Travis McDonough in Knoxville ruled against the attorneys' request for a temporary restraining order. Days later, a three-judge panel at the U.S. 6th Circuit Appeals Court said the government cannot allocate limited coronavirus relief funds based on gender and skin color. The court also issued an order for the government to stop using the criteria when processing an application from Vitolo. (Read the court decision)
"Jake's Bar and Grill, as of Wednesday morning [on 6/2/21], did get $104,590.20 from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which we believe is directly as a result of our lawsuit," WILL attorney Dan Lennington tells One News Now.
"We've been hearing that there are other restaurants that have started to get moved up in the queue and been paid who are likely also owned by white males," the attorney continues, "so we do feel like there has been some significant progress in the way that SBA is administering the program.
"However, they are still being very cagy with how they are doing this and whether they are in fact still giving a head-start in the processing to women and minorities – so, we need to go back to court."
Lennington is now asking the court to issue an emergency temporary restraining order requiring the SBA to treat WILL's other clients from Indiana, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and North Carolina the same way. "We are demanding equality under the law," he adds.
Lennington is also representing white farmers in a case involving government assistance to only minority farmers.
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