The San Francisco Creamery in downtown Walnut Creek, one of six restaurants to receive the first grants from the city's pandemic relief program for restaurants. (Photo via Tim Lawver/Flickr)

Six Walnut Creek restaurants received relief grants this week, the first grants dispersed as part of the city’s $1 million COVID-19 pandemic relief program.

The City Council approved the program last month amid the Bay Area’s stay-at-home order in an effort to help restaurants stay afloat until they could offer sit-down dining again.

While the stay-at-home order was lifted roughly a week after the council approved the program, the city chose to forge ahead in its intent to help the beleaguered restaurant industry.

“It makes good business sense for the city to help keep our restaurant community alive,” Mayor Kevin Wilk said in a statement, adding that restaurants account for 17 percent of the city’s sales tax revenue.

Restaurants can apply for grants of $5,000 if they are fast-casual or $10,000 if they are full-service eateries, according to the city.

Five of the six restaurants, including the San Francisco Creamery, received $10,000 grants, according to Collette Hanna, the city’s economic development manager.

Jay Hoyer, the president and CEO of the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce, called the program a “positive development in a miserable situation.”

“$5,000 and $10,000 isn’t necessarily a game changer, but it is help,” Hoyer said. “It is beneficial. I think, across the board, people are happy to see the program and happy the city can be in a position to do that.”

The grants also come as more Contra Costa County residents get vaccinated against the coronavirus and federal legislators consider a $2 trillion pandemic relief package that includes some $25 billion for restaurants and bars.

Hoyer said the combination of more aid for struggling small businesses and more people feeling comfortable sitting down to eat at restaurants has the local business community relatively optimistic.

“There is kind of that sense of maybe a turn toward the better,” he said.

A total of 79 restaurants applied for funding through the grant program, according to the city.

Local officials are currently reviewing applications for additional disbursements in the coming weeks.

“It’s an investment that helps the restaurants as well as the city’s bottom line,” Wilk said.