Tampa grant money keeping residents, small businesses afloat as city begins to reopen

Barbecue boats are like barbecue sundaes because there are layers of barbecue goodies. It’s a specialty at Sarges Smokehouse BBQ in Tampa, where owner Ken Sebourn is doing his best to keep his business afloat. 

First came his food truck business, and then five years later his restaurant, but both are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, today he received some relief because the city of Tampa is helping Sebourn out.

“Found out today when my landlord came up and show me the check she received,” explained Sebourn. “It feels good. Any bit helps. It paid my rent for a month.”

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Recently Mayor Jane Castor announced, through a grant, the city would offer residents and small businesses that qualify some help paying their rent and utilities.

Gary Onzy, owner of Bounce Boy, a party rental business said unlike a bouncy house, business has been flat, but he still has bills to pay.

“Thank God it came in time to help me pay my rent,” Onzy said. “It helped pay the electricity because I was really getting behind so I didn’t know what to do.”

Just around the corner from Onzy’s business is Maurice Rolle. He’s busy keeping his barbershop sanitized for his next customer.

He said before COVID-19 he could easily fit 15 customers at one time in his shop. Now he handles one customer at a time by appointment only.

He was happy to hear the governor is now allowing capacity to go from 25 percent to 50 percent.

“Fifty percent capacity will help a lot because I also have a stylist and other barbers so it would help.”

Each business doing the best they can in their new normal.