Nobu, the international luxury chain of sushi restaurants and hotels, took up to $28 million in loans from the U.S. small business relief program as part of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), according to recently released government filings.
The chain, which includes 46 restaurants and 13 luxury hotels across the world, was co-founded by actor Robert De Niro, celebrity chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, and film producer Meir Teper. Nobu took 14 loans totaling as much as $27.7 million, CNBC reported. Because the Small Business Administration (SBA) provides only a range for loan sizes instead of precise dollar amounts, however, the Nobu group may have received as little as $11 million, CNBC said.
De Niro, for the record, is worth an estimated $500 million.
“Restaurants were among the biggest recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program, a key component of the government’s response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The news that big, well-funded chains like Shake Shack and Ruth’s Hospitality Group had initially gotten loans set off a furor in April, prompting the administration to warn companies to make sure they qualified for the program,” CNBC wrote.
Some other large chains, including Five Guys, Dig Inn, Mod Pizza, and Chopt received PPP loans of at least $5 million.
The PPP fund totals hundreds of billions of dollars and was intended to help small businesses survive the loss of revenue as COVID-19 swept the nation. But a firestorm erupted in April when it was revealed that large corporations received billions, prompting many to return the loans.
Franchisees of McDonald’s and Wendy’s appeared throughout the massive list and in some cases secured loans north of $150,000. The Southern California Pizza Company, which operates 224 Pizza Hut locations on the West Coast, got $5 million to $10 million, despite being owned by private equity as of 2012.
Companies returned more than $30 billion in loans after [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin chided organizations like the Los Angeles Lakers for tapping the program. But the government is also withholding the identities of companies that returned funds.
Shake Shack, for instance, gave back the $10 million in PPP loans it received, while Ruth’s Chris, a nationwide steak chain, returned $20 million. “As we watched this opportunity play out over the weeks, it was very clear that the program was underfunded and wasn’t set up for everyone to win,” Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti told CNN at the time. “By returning our $10 million, that $10 million can go back into the pot and go to the people that deserve it. We hope it can go inspire the next round.”
Other millionaire-owned businesses include Kanye West’s clothing company, Yeezy LLC, which reportedly received a loan between $2 million and $5 million from the PPP, according to the data released Monday.
While the government payments are called “loans,” they are forgivable if the businesses that received them can show they used the money to continue paying their employees.