Proceeds from SoBe Wine & Food Festival now part of relief fund for local businesses

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FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - The proceeds from this year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival are now part of a relief fund that will be distributed to businesses across South Florida.

Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management created the relief fund to help the community.

“We saw that what was happening in the hospitality industry, we felt this is a time for us to help the industry who have helped us all these years,” Michael Cheng, the school’s dean, said.

The owners of Temple Street Eatery, who are FIU alumnus, were among some of the businesses that were helped by the relief fund.

The eatery lists its specials outside just like any other day but so much has changed. The Asian fusion restaurant would normally be full inside on a Thursday, but the coronavirus pandemic has crippled the business.

“We’ve been affected now three weeks into this,” owner Alex Kuk said. “Sales have dropped probably 70 to 80 percent, really hard. They’re struggling, I mean, so many other restaurants have not been able to make it.”

This year’s festival broke records, and the proceeds will help local restaurants get through the pandemic.

“They were able to mobilize very quickly,” Kuk said. “Lee and the dean were able to get, I believe, Bacardi and Badia, as well, and some other people involved. The school contacted us saying, ‘Hey, we’re cutting checks and should have them in the mail within two days,’ and two days later, the mailman came, and literally, I think we were jumping up and down.”

Broward County held a webinar on Thursday to inform small business owners how to tap into federal relief funds.

“Although the resources are limited, we have received today more than 20,000 or 30,000 applications, 10 more times than we’ve received for Hurricane Irma,” Florida SBDC Regional Director Sandra Marin said. “We will continue supporting this program until the funds are exhausted.”

Although Kuk is struggling, he continues to try to pay it forward to the community.

“We have created a program where people can buy a Buddha Bowl, and we’ll donate to first responders,” Kuk said.

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