Chris Tanner Ready and Willing for Phase 2 of Restrictions

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An increase in new coronavirus cases last week means the state has put off “phase two,” the relaxation of restrictions designed to prevent its spread, including those involving restaurants.

Little Rock restaurateur Chris Tanner, for one, is looking toward that day. Tanner owns Cheers in the Heights, Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill and the Oyster Bar, which he bought last year.

I checked back in with Tanner because we had featured him in a March 30 Arkansas Business article about the challenges faced by small-business owners during the pandemic.

He closed all three of his restaurants on March 17 but has reopened Cheers in the Heights for to-go orders and limited outdoor dining.

In the meantime, he’s staying busy remodeling the Oyster Bar, a Little Rock institution in the Capitol View/Hillcrest neighborhood.

But his employees “are ready to go back to work,” Tanner said, adding, “I just want phase two. That’s all I want.”

Congress OKs More Aid

Speaking of pandemics …

The Senate last week approved the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, which relaxes the loan terms of the earlier PPP legislation that provided assistance to businesses struggling with the pandemic’s effects. The PPP Flexibility Act, a bipartisan effort earlier passed by the House, now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.

The legislation had the support of the Arkansas Hospitality Association and the National Restaurant Association, among others.

The bill makes a number of changes to the PPP, according to the AHA. The changes include:

  • Extending the expense forgiveness period from eight weeks to 24 weeks;
  • Reducing the payroll ratio requirement to 60%;
  • Increasing the loan repayment period from two to five years, on new loans;
  • Allowing payroll tax deferment for PPP recipients; and
  • Extending the June 30 rehiring deadline.