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The New York Times reported that millions in funding for minority-owned restaurants were recently halted because of a lawsuit filed by the owners of The Lost Cajun in Keller.
Its owners sought and won a preliminary injunction that prevented the U.S. Small Business Administration from giving preference to minority- and women-owned businesses for a share of $28.6 billion in pandemic-relief grants available through the Restuarant Revitalization Fund (RRF), part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
The plaintiffs are listed as Jason Smith and Janice Smith, who co-own and operate Blessed Cajuns LLC., The Lost Cajun’s parent company. In the suit, they claim to have lost nearly $350,000 of gross revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Smiths filed a lawsuit in early May complaining that for the first 21 days of the program, May 3-24, the SBA intended to give priority for the grants to restaurants owned and controlled by women, veterans and those socially and economically disadvantaged.
A national research study found that the overall number of self-employed business owners in the United States dropped 22% from February to April 2020, but black-owned businesses saw a decline of 44%, Latino 32% and Asian 26%.
The suit was backed by America First Legal, which is led by Stephen Miller, an adviser to former President Donald Trump. The Nation reported that “(…) former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows actually has a terrible new project: working with Stephen Miller on an effort called America First Legal, which should really be called Whites First Legal.”
Judge Reed O’Connor, who was nominated by George W. Bush in 2007, issued a temporary injunction May 28 halting all payments based on status.
America First Legal issued a statement afterward: “This is a major victory for equal rights under law and a repudiation of the odious and unconstitutional racial preferences that have consistently found their way into the Biden Administration’s COVID-relief efforts.
Stacy Crowly, the author of The New York Times piece, found that on June 1, just three days after the lawsuit was decided, The Lost Cajun received $187,753 from the SBA.
The Lost Cajun also received two Paycheck Protection Program loans of $67,900 in April 2020 and $95,073 in February 2021. In their application for those funds, The Lost Cajun self-reported as female-owned. All told they’ve received $350,726 in loans and assistance during the pandemic.
Even at the height of COVID-19 infections, when hospital capacities were on the brink, The Lost Cajun never closed and posted pictures of people dining inside their restaurant. On Dec. 11, the deadliest week of the pandemic in North Texas, the restaurant held a second-anniversary birthday bash, thanking “everyone who celebrated with us,” and saying the party and festivities would continue all weekend long.
We reached out to the Smiths for comment but did not hear back.
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