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Sam Mehta, owner of the Royal Motel, organizes the pillows on a bed at the motel in Hermitage.

Sitting in front of his Royal Motel on Wednesday Sam Mehta was soaking up sunshine and relaxing – a little.

A few days earlier Mehta, owner of the Hermitage motel, learned his business was awarded a $10,000 grant.

“I could use that now,’’ he said with a smile. “I’m going to use my grant for my mortgage.’’

Under the Covid Hospitality Industry Recovery Program, grants funneled through the state were created for businesses like Mehta’s. Better known as CHIRP grants, Mercer County was given over $1.2 million, and the program is being administered by Penn-Northwest Development Corp., the county’s lead economic development agency.

Unlike other COVID-19 relief packages that cast a wide net in the business community, this one was honed for the hospitality industry. Eligible businesses included hotels, restaurants, bars, and taverns.

Penn-Northwest awarded grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. Those sums would be a windfall for most family households. But that isn’t the case for businesses, Rod Wilt, Penn-Northwest’s executive director said.

Grants are covering between 2 to 8 percent of lost revenue, Wilt.

“We’re not talking about a huge bailout here,’’ he said. “This isn’t going to cover the losses these businesses have seen – not even close.’’

Penn-Northwest got 65 CHIRP applications and awarded 52 grants.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread in march 2020, businesses like restaurants and motels closed their doors hoping for better days ahead. Those businesses reopened, but profits are nowhere near the levels needed to cover the enormous losses, said Peggy Mazyck, president and CEO of VisitMercerCountyPA, the county’s travel promotion agency.

“Our hotels are in deep trouble,’’ Mazyck said. “They keep telling me how much they are hurting.’’

Revenue at some hotels is down as much as 40 percent, she added.

“And getting their staff to come back has been hard,’’ Mazyck said.

To keep the business afloat, some motel managers are working in sales, the front desk and as housekeepers.

“It’s been a really tough time for everybody,’’ she said. “I’m glad to see them getting something.’’

There were some rules to qualify for a CHIRP grant. They include that a business must show a 25 percent reduction in any quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019.

And there are twists and turns to the regulations.

A restaurant’s headquarters could be based elsewhere but still qualify if it operates a restaurant in the county, such as Golden Corral’s Hermitage restaurant.

Also, a restaurant could be a small, separate operation and qualify, such as the Tam O’Shanter Snack Bar located at Tam O’Shanter’s Golf Course in Hermitage.

Ownership relationships among businesses are allowed if each were operated separately, such as the Buhl Mansion Guesthouse and Spa, Donna’s Diner, Tara A Country Inn, and Park Inn by Radisson, all part of the locally owned Winner Hospitality organization.

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John Kerins, Tam O’Shanter director of golf, serves Gordon Harbison a beer at the golf course’s snack bar in Hermitage. The snack bar got a $5,000 COVID-19 hospitality grant.

Overall though there was little leeway, Wilt said. No priority was given to minority or women business owners.

Grant amounts varied based on economic performance. A business losing $500,000 in revenue would likely qualify for a larger grant than one losing $10,000.

Mehta said he continues to worry about the future of his Royal Motel. But he does see a glimmer of hope.

“Business is down,’’ he said. “But it is better than last year.’’

Local CHIRP grant recipients

BUSINESS MONEY GRANTED TOWN BUSINESS TYPE
Ami Shahill LLC $5,000 Mercer Hotel
Censeo Solutions Inc. $10,000 Greenville Full-service restaurant
Coolspring Inc. $35,000 Mercer Hotel
Corinthian Inc. $15,000 Sharon Full-service restaurant and caterer
GJDQ Inc. $30,000 West Middlesex Limited-service restaurant
Great American Ventures Inc. $40,000 Grove City Mobile food services
Grove City HIE, LLC $50,000 Mercer Hotel
Lulu Beans LLC $15,000 Sharon Full-service restaurant
MLH Distillery LLC $25,000 Grove City Drinking places
Mahashakti Corp. $30,000 Grove City Hotel
Mercer Pizza Barn, Inc. $10,000 Mercer Full-service restaurant
Niko and Lou’s Coney Island Inc. $10,000 Sharon Full-service restaurant
PJ Ricky Inc. $30,000 Mercer Full-service restaurant
Royal Motel $10,000 Hermitage Hotel
R. J. Williams Inc. $30,000 Greenville Drinking places
Renee Rice $10,000 Hadley Full-service restaurant
Smokey G. Inc. $15,000 Mercer Full-service restaurant
Spring Valley Golf Club Inc. $10,000 Mercer All other traveler accommodation
Towne Place Suites by Marriott $50,000 Mercer Hotel
Star Properties Inc. $25,000 Hermitage Hotel
Hampton Inn Suites $50,000 Mercer Hotel
Candlewood Suites $50,000 Mercer Hotel
Toss’d Food Service, LLC $30,000 Hermitage Full-service restaurant
Trepasso Mills $5,000 Mercer Mobile food service
VMAR Inc. $10,000 Greenville Drinking place
Crew 78, LLC $30,000 Hermitage Full-service restaurant
GBU Corral LLC $50,000 Hermitage Full-service restaurant
Neofotistos Enerprises, Inc. $40,000 Greenville Full-service restaurant
TTT Patton Inc. $45,000 Mercer Full-service restaurant
Tam O’Shanter Snack Bar Inc $5,000 Hermitage Full-service restaurant
Greenville Cobblestone, LLC $45,000 Grove City Hotel
Suprima Int’l Inc. $15,000 Hermitage Hotel
Koehler Brewing Co. $10,000 Grove City Drinking place
Saibaba Krupa $20,000 Sharpsville Bed and breakfast inn
Moti Hera, Inc $10,000 Hermitage Bed and breakfast inn
Tara, A Country Inn, Inc. $40,000 Clark Bed and breakfast inn
Park Inn by Raddison Sharon $50,000 West Middlesex Hotel
Mercury Lodging LLC $5,000 Mercer Hotel
Winner Hotels Corp $50,000 West Middlesex Hotel
Shayona Krupa Inc. $5,000 Grove City Hotel
Meridian Hotels Inc $45,000 Grove City Hotel
Winner Hospitality LLC $20,000 Sharon Bed and breakfast inn
ECG Business Ventures $10,000 Mercer Full-service restaurant
JS and Family Inc. $10,000 Hermitage Full-service restaurant
SB Williams, Inc. $10,000 Greenville Drinking place
Keg Bar and Grille LLC $15,000 Sharon Full-service restaurant
Kim Thai Inc $15,000 Hermitage Full-service restaurant
Pearla $5,000 Hermitage Full-service restaurant
Cristy S. Brooks $20,000 Greenville Full-service restaurant
Donna’s Diner LLC $20,000 Sharon Full-service restaurant
Lanciotti LTD $10,000 Greenville Full-service restaurant
Vey Group, LLC $5,000 Hermitage Full-service restaurant

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