Burger Haus owner sues Small Business Administration for discriminating over ARPA funding

Jefferson City, Missouri (KMIZ)

The owner of several businesses in Missouri is suing the U.S. Small Business Administration alleging he was denied money from the American Rescue Program Act because he is white.

Drew Robertson filed a lawsuit against the Small Business Administration and SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman in Western District Court on Monday.

Robertson owns Burger Haus, LLC in California, Missouri; Robertson Wing, LLC in Springfield, Missouri; Robertson Enterprises, LLC, which operates Golden Corral franchises in Missouri and Indiana; LLC operates the Golden Corral franchise in Ohio.

Congress appropriated $28.6 million from ARPA’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which will be administered by the Small Business Administration. The application opens on May 3, 2021. Once the application portal opened, Robertson submitted an application for his restaurant, according to court documents.

During the first 21 days of opening, the agency awarded funding to “priority applicants,” described as restaurants that are at least 51 percent owned and controlled by veterans, women, or “socially and economically disadvantaged groups.” Owners who are not veterans or women must “be subject to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural prejudice because of their status as members of a group without regard to their personal qualities.”

Non-priority restaurants can apply during this time, but will not receive funding until 21 days have passed.

Robertson claimed that because he was white and did not serve in the military, the SBA “unconstitutionally deprived him of priority and put his application on hold until RFF funds were exhausted,” according to court documents.

Court documents say:

  • 186,000 applications received by May 5, 2021
  • As of May 18, 300,000 applications were submitted, representing over $69 billion
  • The Small Business Administration will stop accepting RRF applications on May 24, 2021
  • On June 30, 2021, the RRF used up the $28.6 billion allocated to it
  • Approximately $18 billion awarded to priority applicants

Robertson is seeking judgment for any and all damages, costs, expenses and other relief, including an award of actual damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, costs, expenses and other relief deemed appropriate.

Bivens’ claim is also included in the lawsuit, which is the cause of a lawsuit under the U.S. Constitution directed against federal officials violating constitutionally protected rights in their personal capacity,” the filing said.

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