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A Tennessee restaurant owner is suing the Biden administration, claiming that white males have been “pushed to the back of the line” for pandemic aid from a multi-billion dollar restaurant stimulus fund.
Antonio Vitolo, who owns Jake’s Bar and Grill in Harriman, Tennessee, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Tennessee after he applied for a grant from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion pandemic fund targeted at the hard-hit restaurant industry. The aid program was approved in March as part of Democrats’ $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill and began accepting applications from restaurants around the country on May 3, the day Vitolo submitted his application.
“I do not want special treatment. I just want to be treated equally under the law. I am opposed to race and sex discrimination, and I would hope my government lived up to the same principle,” Vitolo said, according to a press release from conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which filed the lawsuit on his behalf.
The program bars white male restaurant owners from applying for aid for three weeks, by which time the money may run out. The fund is experiencing extremely high demand, but the Small Business Administration (SBA) said it will initially only select applications from restaurants and other eligible small businesses that are at least 51 percent owned by “women, veterans, or socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.”
As a white male, Vitolo did not qualify for the priority application period. However, Vitolo’s wife is Hispanic and owns 50% of their business, according to the lawsuit, which names SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman as a defendant.
“Vitolo’s application has been put on hold because he is a white male,” the lawsuit states. “Other restaurant owners’ applications, however, have been and are being processed because they are not white males.”
The program places “white male restaurant owners behind certain minority or female applicants, regardless of when they filed an application,” the lawsuit claims. “Given the limited pot of funds, this puts white male applicants at significant risk that, by the time their applications are processed, the money will be gone.”
The lawsuit calls the program “unconstitutional” and asks the court to halt grants to restaurants and other eligible businesses until the SBA stops “discriminating on the basis of race and gender.”
Hans Bader, a longtime civil rights lawyer who worked in the federal Office for Civil Rights, previously told The Daily Wire that prioritizing minority groups in a broad manner, as the program does, is unconstitutional.
“To legally give minority groups a preference in an area, the government has to be seeking to remedy the present effects of its own past discrimination against those particular minority groups, in the area where they are being given a preference,” Bader said, adding that the government discrimination must also be “recent” and “widespread.”
In this case, the American Rescue Plan, which launched the restaurant aid program, did not make any such finding that all minority-owned restaurants have been recently discriminated against by the federal government. A federal appeals court ruled nearly three decades ago that discrimination even 14 years old is too old to justify affirmative action and that isolated instances of discrimination do not justify a racial preference.