D.C's Historic Ben's Chili Bowl Among Small Businesses Still Waiting for Government Loans

Illustration for article titled D.C's Historic Ben's Chili Bowl Among Small Businesses Still Waiting for Government Loans
Photo: Selam Baradat (AFP via Getty Images)

It was already horrible news that the $349 billion set aside for small businesses struggling during the pandemic ran out of money on April 16, barely two weeks after it was released. To find out that much of that money went to large restaurant chains and publicly traded companies while many local favorites are struggling to stay open made the news doubly so.


WJLA reports that beloved Washington, D.C. icon Ben’s Chili Bowl is fighting to stay afloat while waiting for Congress to add more funding to the Payment Protection Program.

“The COVID-19 hit us hard, we’ve had to consolidate, we’re just working out of here for carryout and delivery,” Ben’s Chili Bowl co-owner Sage Ali told WJLA. The restaurant chain, which has been a part of the D.C. community for 61 years, has four locations within the D.C area but only its landmark U-Street location is currently open. “We were looking to really have our best year yet. And all of a sudden this hit and it just took us in a very, very different direction,” said Ali.

The company applied for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program but have yet to acquire approval. The program has come under scrutiny as money meant for small businesses has gone to over 100 publicly traded companies. Earlier this week, Shake Shack announced that it would return the $10 million loan it received from the program. On Thursday, Kura Sushi and Sweetgreen joined Shake Shack in returning money they received from the program. 

Ben’s Chili Bowl is hoping to see a portion of the additional $310 billion that is part of a relief package the House is set to vote on Thursday. The total price tag of the bill is $484 billion and will be used exclusively for small businesses and hospitals.

Despite the current setbacks, Ali still has hope that Ben’s Chili Bowl will weather the storm. “We look forward to continuing for the next 60 years...we will all get through this, not just us, but the community,” Ali told WJLA.

The stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, wheelin' and dealin' nerd of The Root.



One of the few businesses in the U St corridor that didn’t burn during the ‘68 riots. Stayed open during the riots and I believe Stokely Carmichael was involved in making sure they were able to stay open (could have some details wrong).

The epitome of hard working people who stayed true to their community, folks who didn’t run at the first sign of the neighborhood going downhill right before and during the crack epidemic. These are the kinds of small businesses we must help protect during these times because they helped protect us (literally, in some of my family members’ cases) during other tough times.