Ruth's Chris Steak House decided Thursday to say "no thanks" after all to $20 million in federal loans intended to help small business survive the pandemic shutdown. The restaurant chain had applied for two $10 million loans through the Paycheck Protection Program by saying it was eligible because it has fewer than 500 employees at each restaurant and has had to furlough some of them. That drew criticism, NBC reports, including a Change.org petition with 250,000 signatures that called for the company to return the money. Shake Shack had used the same argument in applying for a $10 million loan, which the company said this week it will return. The loans are showing up in company SEC filings. The federal program went through its $350 billion in less than two weeks, shutting out thousands of applicants.
Two other restaurant companies, Sweetgreen and Kura Sushi, announced plans to return PPP loans, as well. Sweetgreen, which collected $10 million, said it had learned that the program had run dry without helping many small businesses, per the Hill. "If this crisis has taught us anything, it is that we are all in this together," Sweetgreen's statement said. Kara Sushi, which closed all of its more than 400 locations, received $5.98 million. "We hope that these funds will be shared equitably among deserving candidates," the company said Thursday. (Read more Ruth's Chris Steakhouse stories.)