One of my favorite things to do is to enjoy a great meal at one of my favorite restaurants. Many of those businesses have been struggling for a year, but they are beginning to make a comeback.

Sales numbers released by the National Restaurant Association look great and show a pretty substantial bounce back for that industry.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Preliminary numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show restaurant spending topped the $62 billion dollar mark in March. That's up more than 13% from February sales. of just under $55 billion.

The experts say the bounce back has a lot to do with the accessibility of the vaccine and the latest round of stimulus checks which put $1400 dollars into the pockets of most Americans.

Is this the light at the end of the tunnel for restaurants across our region? Not quite yet. Many industry leaders say we are moving in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go to get back to where we were in the beginning of 2020. Sales are still $3 billion dollars down from the monthly numbers we posted in the beginning of last year.

Stan Harris with the Louisiana Restaurant Association says 20 to 25% of restaurants and bars in Louisiana have closed permanently. He says they could not operate at a volume that would let them stay in business. He says federal dollars have helped keep some restaurants in business and more help is on the way. He says the money was a lifeline that provided up to 32 weeks of aid and this new pile of money will also help keep some struggling restaurants open in our state.

Some good news for restaurants in Louisiana. The Small Business Administration is making some grant money available to help restaurants recover from a tough year. The restaurants will be able to use the money for employee salaries, utility costs, and to pay for food and beverage products.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association says these type of grants are needed in order to keep more of our restaurants from closing.

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