WHITTIER, Calif. — Growing up in the restaurant business, Annette Wren learned the main ingredient for success – hard work. "Busy nights, weekends. It was full-time always. It still is, every day," Wren said. "We are open seven days a week."

She is the co-owner of Lascari’s Italian Restaurant, a longtime staple in the Whittier restaurant scene. Before the pandemic hit, Wren knew when to expect customers dining-in and ordering takeout or catering services. Business looks very different these days.

What You Need To Know

  • The $669-billion Paycheck Protection Program has issued over 5.1 million loans since it launched in April

  • The deadline to apply for a PPP loan is Saturday, August 8th

  • The average loan size is $101,782 and there is $130 billion left in the program

  • In order for loan to be forgivable, at least 60% must go towards payroll expenses

"It’s a struggle each day not knowing what the day is going to bring. On really hot days, people tend to eat out more so we try to plan for that, but without a dine-in, you just don’t know where people are going to go," she said.

Even though Wren has worked in the restaurant business her entire life, the pandemic is forcing her to tread on new territory. Her parents started off 50 years ago with a small deli and later opened two restaurant locations. After they retired, Wren and three of her brothers took over the business, managing over 100 employees. But when the pandemic hit and business slowed down, they faced some tough decisions.

"It was quite a scare," she said. "We were going over lists that, for sure, we were going to have to let go of a lot of people."

But Wren only had to lay off about 10 percent of her workers thanks to a Paycheck Protection Program loan. The $669-billion business loan program has issued over five million loans to the tune of $523 billion dollars since it launched in April. Small business owners can still apply for a PPP loan as the deadline was extended from June 30th to August 8th.

Without the PPP loan, Wren would not have been able to keep paying the staff at Lascari’s.

"They would have survived, but there would have been massive layoffs and they would have had to let go of a pretty sizable portion of their team," said CPA Matt Tallman. He handles accounting for Lascari’s and three dozen other restaurants across Southern California.

Lascari’s was one of nearly 1,600 small businesses that received PPP loans in Whittier, but Tallman says the high number of loans issued is not unusual.

"It really comes down to who needs the money and small businesses that don’t have the ability to raise capital otherwise, you know,"Tallman said. "It just allowed people to stay at work."

In order for the loan to be forgiven, at least 60% of it must go towards covering payroll, and the rest can be used for rent, utilities, and other business-related expenses. Tallman says the loan, along with the restaurant’s well-established take-out and delivery service, helped the business survive the past few months.

"I just wake up thankful every day because you just never know what’s going to happen, and to be able to have business, it’s good," Wren said.