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Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group expects the Paycheck Protection Program loan it received Tuesday from FirstBank will help the Colorado Springs-based chain hire back up to 200 workers at its Salsa Brava restaurant and eight Over Easy, A Daytime Eatery restaurants along the Front Range.

After cutbacks forced by the coronavirus pandemic, Randy Price plans to bring back as many as 80 salaried employees of his Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group using a special loan he received Tuesday to help businesses stay afloat during the crisis.

The Paycheck Protection Program loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration will help the Colorado Springs-based chain bring back all 365 employees if its nine restaurants can reopen by mid-June, Price said. Restaurants were forced to close to all but takeout and delivery orders March 17 under orders from Gov. Jared Polis to slow the spread of the virus that has infected more than 8,000 Coloradans and killed more than 300.

Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group is among one of many operations to receive loans, which are designed to help businesses with fewer than 500 employees pay workers, mortgage interest, rent or utilities. Through Monday, the Small Business Administration approved 28,469 loans totaling $5.83 billion for Colorado businesses and 1.04 million loans totaling $247.5 billion nationwide.

While the agency has no data on loans in the Colorado Springs area, ANB Bank officials said they have made $27.8 million in loans to local businesses and nonprofits, and expects to approve another $10 million next week. Through April 9, the Denver-based bank made about 1,200 loans totaling $208 million in Colorado, Wyoming and the Kansas City area. Central Bank & Trust, the area’s largest SBA lenders, said it made $138 million in loans through the program, including $82 million in the Colorado Springs area.

The $349 billion paycheck program was part of the $2.2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package enacted last month. President Donald Trump has asked Congress to boost funding for the program to $600 billion. The program ran out of money Wednesday.

“This is going to be super helpful, for sure,” said Price, president of Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group. “We would survive this, regardless, but this will help us bring people back more quickly.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been affected by this; it has been a tough month,” he continued. “We look forward to seeing our guests and friends back in our dining rooms” when the restaurants can reopen.

Price said he applied for an SBA loan as soon as Polis declared the state a disaster area, but the agency couldn’t find his application so he instead applied for a loan — he declined to disclose the amount — from the paycheck program through FirstBank.

Despite stories of long delays and glitches from some borrowers, Price said his company received the funds two weeks after he applied, which he credited to the bank’s “good communication and quick response.”

Loan amounts can be for up to 250% of monthly payroll expenses, and eight weeks’ worth of debt is forgiven if loan recipients use the money for intended purposes and spend at least three-fourths of the money on payroll. Price said he will repay any of the loan the company doesn’t use but doesn’t want to take on more debt.

“I don’t see us reopening to the same level of sales we had last year at the same time. It will be a slow build, and we will have to staff according to sale,” Price said.

Red Leg Brewery, off Garden of the Gods Road, plans to use its $90,000 paycheck program loan from Pikes Peak National Bank to keep all 14 of its employees on the payroll, said Todd Baldwin, the brewery’s founder and president.

The company submitted its application for the loan Friday and received the funding Tuesday, he said.

The brewery plans to move to a much larger $8 million building in September that is under construction.

“This is huge. We committed to keeping all of our employees and not laying off or furloughing anyone. This keeps all that in place. It is a huge bonus,” Baldwin said. “My heart paused for a while (after the restaurant and bar closure order). It is a tough time, but cash is king and I’m really glad we remained fiscally responsible and had enough resources to keep everybody employed and our project going.”

Ronald McDonald House is using its $100,000 loan from ANB Bank to keep paying its 14-person staff after canceling its June fundraising event, said Beth Alessio, the nonprofit’s executive director. The group applied for the loan April 3, was approved two days later, and received the money Wednesday, a quick turnaround she called “extremely helpful.”

Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234

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