US Elections 2020 Colorado Senate (copy) (copy)

John Hickenlooper. Associated Press file photo. 

The former best-known barkeeper in Denver's LoDo said $481 million in the federal stimulus money had reached 1,762 Colorado food and drink businesses from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund that Democrats included in the American Rescue Plan.

Hickenlooper and other Democrats are making the rounds to talk up the economic recovery led by President Joe Biden, as the party faces  tough challenges to retain control of Congress in next year's mid-term election. Sen. Michael Bennet, Colorado's senior senator, was a guest for an extended segment of the MSNBC show "Morning Joe" talking up the stimulus on Monday.

Hickenlooper visited a solar farm east of Aurora with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to talk up the Democrats' relief money for renewable energy two weeks ago.

The money has made it to Colorado bars, restaurants, caterers and food trucks. Hickenlooper is Denver's former mayor and Colorado's former governor, as well as a cofounder of the Wynkoop Brewing, the state's first brew pub, in 1988.

“Restaurants are the heart of our communities and many in Colorado were in dire straits during the pandemic,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “These grants will help keep many doors open and restaurant workers on the job.”

Each food or drink service business could receive a grant based on its losses of up to $5 million, and up to $10 million for restaurant groups.

The agency released a list of the 100,004 food service businesses that collected $28.6 billion in grants from the first round of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The distribution has been controversial. The Small Business Administration released the list as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request by the Independent Restaurant Coalition.

The list of grant recipients included Panera Bread, McDonald’s, Golden Corral, Jimmy John’s, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Dunkin’ Donuts, Buffalo Wild Wings and Chuck E Cheese, as well as eateries on the Apple corporate campus and Walt Disney World.

Hickenlooper's office pointed out that more than 75% of Colorado grants went to businesses owned by women, veterans or people of color, 191 businesses in rural areas, 50 breweries and 220 bars or saloons.

Colorado's junior senator is a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, which oversees the Small Business Administration.

Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

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