We hate to do this but we need to ask for some serious help. As many restaurateurs have more eloquently stated, we're screwed. While almost all restaurants are suffering right now, we are especially hurting, with no aid in sight. Here's the deal: other than the PPP, we don't qualify for any state or federal grants meant for restaurants and other small businesses for COVID-19 relief. In order to qualify for this assistance, you need to provide 2019 tax returns. But we bought The Daily Planet in January 2020, and the government will not allow us to provide the tax returns from the previous owner. We've been operating at a loss since we opened (nevermind the 4+ months we spent closed), and with our business reserves dwindling we stand at risk of closing the doors on this almost 4-decades old Burlington landmark forever. Can you help save The Planet? Read on for the full story.
When we purchased the 38 year old Daily Planet in January of 2020 we were feeling confident and optimistic. After a hard scrub and some fresh paint, we got up and running for a grand reopening on Valentines day and were quickly off to a great start. It felt too good to be true as exceptional food was flying out of the pick up window and our bartenders were slinging out our signatures cocktails as fast as they could. Customer feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Our mission to revitalize the Burlington staple, grow the menu, and expand the hours to include lunch, brunch and more late night options while keeping the same fun, casual atmosphere was all coming together beautifully.
Then COVID-19 hit. Initially it didn't seem too bleak: a mandated closure for a few weeks in a historically slower month surely wouldn't be the end of the world and financial assistance was on it's way, so we thought. As the lockdown was expanded further and further we brainstormed on ways to stay positive and productive while anxiously awaiting the opportunity to get back to work. We considered changing the business model entirely, but seeing as though The Planet was a long established dine-in spot and bar that hardly did any takeout previously, this just didn't seem to be a viable route. We decided to wait it out until we could function the way we were meant to.
Finally in July we were able to reopen. Slowly but surely we were serving more and more patrons and by October we got a brief taste of low but sustainable business again, for which we were very grateful. Even with 50% capacity and no late bar business we could see the light. Then COVID started to spike in Vermont, and new restrictions were placed on dining out which caused our business to plummet.
It's no secret that a new or even newly owned restaurant doesn't see profit in it's first few years and that's not what we planned for either. But the pandemic caused massive losses in crucial months that would usually be able to get us some capital to ride on. We know in a normal circumstances we would be thriving, and we've proven it. It's clear that if we're going to make it through until this pandemic is hopefully under control in spring/summer 2021 we're going to need a huge crutch.
To be transparent the grants that were designed to help businesses in our same position aren't available to us. Since we purchased the business in 2020, without 2019 tax returns we're being left out of the generous funds given to other hospitality groups. The PPP was a huge help getting the place restarted in July but has now run out as we were unable to be cash positive for the majority of the time we've been able to operate. That being said our staff has been amazing, some even insisting to work for free, which of course we refused. We are truly blessed with a stellar crew, both front and back of house.
One thing we refuse to ever do is take gratuity or earned wages from any employee to pay hourly wages, bills or even ourselves. It's completely unacceptable in our eyes, yet it is being done by some operations that received full PPP and grants. Maybe because we work on the floor and kitchen ourselves with the staff we have a different perspective of right and wrong. Without naming any establishment specifically, if that practice doesn't sit well with you either, it would be wise to ask your server when dining out or getting takeout where their tips go, and hear for yourselves. Providing a positive and fair workplace is mission critical to us. We know from decades of restaurant management experience that you can't run a great restaurant without a dedicated staff and we are only looking to improve their wages whether they're salary, hourly or tipped. If we can't achieve that then we would ultimately fail regardless of business revenue.
Unfortunately we now are left to beg for community help. $50,000 probably sounds like an astronomical amount of money but The Daily Planet is a 100 seat restaurant with downtown Burlington rent and an old building to heat. These funds would just help cover partial payroll and expenses until early summer when we're betting things will be back to "normal" and we can fill up again. In the meantime we are launching prepared foods like house pickled vegetables, fresh baked breads and take and bake items like mac and cheese and enchiladas. Semi prepared meal kits will also be available and specialty cocktail togo pouches too. All at the same time continuing dine-in for guests of the same household and take out as well. We want to keep working and our staff wants to keep working, we just need your help to keep us rolling.
We all love this place. As long time patrons ourselves, The Planet was always a go to for everything from after work cocktails to a fancy dinner to a quick burger and beer. We've heard so many stories from our friends and regulars of birthday parties, first dates, engagements, and anniversaries all happening at The Planet. It seems every local and college student alike has a fond memory here. What's a better spot to start off your 21st birthday before heading to Nectar's or Red Square? Where else but The Planet to take your vegan boyfriend when you just want a double butter burger, parm fries and a creme brulee for dessert and he can have a buffalo seitan sandwich and the mint chocolate cheesecake? After a hard night getting crushed serving 150 tourists, where else are you going to sit down for a beer and a shot with your comrades?
Your much needed donation will help us get through this unprecedented time so we can keep providing fun memories in the future good times to come. As always thank you, thank you, thank you!
- Tim Wile
- Best Tile
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