News & Politics

Newsom's Favorite French Laundry Restaurant Got 17 Times More COVID Relief Than Any Other San Fran Restaurant

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Do you remember when Gavin Newsom got caught partying with a large group at the ultra-fancy French Laundry restaurant after banning Californians from dining in large groups? He issued an insincere, stupid apology and expected everyone to forget about it.

But real journalists still exist and ABC7, a local station in the Bay Area, did an amazing piece of investigative work that uncovered that The French Laundry applied for and received more COVID relief than any other restaurant in town. And not just more, but seventeen times more.

The luxury restaurant where Governor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor London Breed were notoriously spotted dining during a COVID-19 surge, reportedly received millions in PPP funding.

Yountville’s highly acclaimed French Laundry received multiple loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, totaling more than $2.4 million, according to an ABC7 analysis of newly-released data from the Small Business Administration.

The French Laundry received two loans that were both approved on April 30, 2020. According to the SBA, the first loan was for more than $2.2 million to retain 163 employees. The second loan was for $194,656 to retain five employees.

ABC7’s analysis found the company received 17 times more than what the average Bay Area restaurant received.

Other restauranteurs weren’t so lucky.

“That’s a lot of money. But, what can I do about it?” said Dennis Berkowitz, former owner of San Mateo restaurant Vault 164.

Berkowitz struggled to get around $318,000 to retain roughly 50 employees. The loan amount wasn’t enough to sustain his business, and he was forced to sell the restaurant in July.

“I’ve had a 40-year run in the restaurant business, so I consider myself fortunate,” he said. “I really feel bad for the next generation of restaurateurs because they’re screwed.”

The investigative team at ABC7 ought to win an award for this one. They uncovered what we have suspected for a while. Most of those COVID loans went to the guys with the big bucks who can purchase influence, while the little guy got screwed. The only thing missing from their investigation is how many of the big restaurants that received the majority of the loans were donors to Newsom’s campaign.

The I-Team analyzed thousands of California loans released by the SBA that show wealthier, big businesses are often getting access to loans before small mom and pop owners. Out of all the approved loans in California, 91 percent of larger restaurants with 300 or more employees got their loan approved in April versus only 52 percent of smaller restaurants with 100 or fewer employees.

The French Laundry is the kind of place that you and I would probably never be able to go to unless we won the Lotto.

At the French Laundry, you can reserve an exclusive outdoor culinary dining experience starting at $450 per person or a White Truffle and Caviar dinner for $1,200 per person, according to reservation services online.

With the clientele that can afford that luxury, it’s not a stretch to ponder the possibility that the French Laundry owners are connected to the most powerful people in California. We already know the governor is a big fan. French Laundry owner Thomas Keller is a regular donor to local Democrat Mike Thompson, according to Open Secrets.

The LA Times reported that the birthday dinner Newsom attended at the French Laundry was a party for lobbyist Jason Kinney, who is representing amusement parks that want Newsom to let them open. Imagine the brass balls it takes to attend an “illegal” (according to Newsom) dinner party to be wined and dined for the purpose of granting lockdown exceptions to donors and friends. It looks like that’s what Newsom may have been doing that night.

Remember what George Carlin said: “It’s a big club. And you ain’t in it.”

Hypocrisy Unmasked: Gov. Gavin Newsom Breaks Own COVID Rules to Party With Lobbyist. And It Gets Worse