Bay Area Organizations Provide Financial Relief to Independent Restaurants that Didn't Get PPP Loans

Shayla Jamerson, center, founded SoOakland five years ago as a platform for events and community initiatives in her hometown.  (Feeby / Courtesy of SoOakland )

Small businesses and restaurants continue to reel from profit losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. Though California small businesses fared better in the second round of Paycheck Protection Program, a federal relief fund, many face an uncertain future. Add to that some damages incurred from uprisings against police brutality in June, the tab to reopen or maintain affairs is running long for small businesses. That’s when Shayla Jamerson decided to intervene with a fundraiser for Black-owned businesses in Oakland that suffered damages from protests and financial losses from COVID-19 restrictions. 

Back in the fall of 2015, Jamerson founded SoOakland — an agile outfit that puts on a popular series of events and parties in Oakland and promotes local community initiatives. Last month, Jamerson turned her attention to the Black-owned businesses in her hometown through a fundraiser she promoted to SoOakland’s 55,000 followers on Instagram. “My influence with the Oakland community is pretty strong,” said Jamerson who was involved in the marches against police brutality and noticed the damages to locally-owned businesses. “I knew at that moment I needed to use my voice and my platform to play my part and do what I could to help them.”

The fundraiser surpassed $100,000 in its first three days. Today, it stands at a little over $300,000. Of which,  about a third Jamerson has disbursed to 40 businesses in town who applied for funding through SoOakland’s site. Many of those who received funding from SoOakland relayed that they didn’t get any federal relief. One such business is OVO Tavern and Eatery in North Oakland, whose business was damaged during the protests. “COVID, it affected us really bad," said Trevel Adanandus who co-runs the restaurant and event space with his business partner Gordon Tillman. "We applied for a couple of loans but got denied. We're in fear of losing our business right now."

Despite the prospect of losing his own business, Adanandus is sharing the funds of a GoFundMe fundraiser to support other Black-owned businesses that are also suffering during this time. That effort has raised nearly $10,000. He’s also been putting on free community feeds through the pandemic at his restaurant. “We've been helping people all along anyhow, that's what OVO is,” said Adanadus who also throws LakeFest, a free music and food festival at Lake Merritt that drew 22,000 people last year. The six year old restaurant is unique for its intergenerational crowd and its capacity to host events like birthdays, graduations and repasses. Speaking to San Francisco Chronicle’s Justin Phillips late last month, Adanandus expressed that his business needs $100,000 to stay afloat.

OVO is hoping to do just that and open its doors for business this month with a grand reopening on Friday, July 10 and regular hours to follow soon after from Tuesday to Saturday from 2pm to 8pm. For her part, Jamerson and her SoOakland team are
still accepting applications for the rebuilding fund. “The fact that people trust me and know that I hold this huge weight in the community and I always do whatever I can to help, that says a lot,” she said.

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