Burger Haus owner sues Small Business Administration for discrimination of ARPA funds

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

The owner of several businesses in Missouri is suing the United States Small Business Administration for allegations that he was denied funds from the American Rescue Plan Act because he is a white man.

Drew Robertson filed a lawsuit Monday in the Western District Court against the Small Business Administration and Isabella Guzman, the administrator of the Small Business Administration.

Robertson owns Burger Haus, LLC, in California, Missouri; Robertson Wing, LLC, in Springfield, Missouri; Robertson Enterprises, LLC, which operates Golden Corral franchise locations in Missouri and Indiana; and Robertson Corral, LLC, which runs a Golden Corral franchise in Ohio, according to court documents.

Congress appropriated $28.6 million within the Restaurant Revitalization Fund from ARPA, which was to be administered by the Small Business Administration. The application began May 3, 2021. Once the web portal to apply opened, Robertson submitted applications for his restaurants, according to court documents.

During the first 21 days it was opened, the agency gave grants to “priority applicants,” which were described as restaurants that were at least 51% owned and controlled by veterans, women or “socially and economically disadvantaged.” Owners who aren’t veterans or women must have been “subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities.”

Non-priority restaurants were able to apply during that time, but could not receive a grant until that 21-day passed.

Robertson claims because he’s a white man who also did not serve in the military, the Small Business Administration “unconstitutionally deprioritized and set aside his applications until after RFF funds were depleted,” according to court documents.

Court documents say:

  • 186,000 total applications were received by May 5, 2021
  • 300,000 total applications were submitted, requested more than $69 billion by May 18
  • The Small Business Adminstration stopped accepted RRF applications on May 24, 2021
  • On June 30, 2021, the RRF exhausted the $28.6 billion it was allocated
  • About $18 billion was awarded to priority applicants

Robertson is requesting judgement to award any and all damages, costs, fees and other relief including the award of actual damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, costs, expenses and other relief deemed appropriate.

A Bivens claim was also included in the lawsuit, which is a cause of action brought directly under the United States Constitution against a federal official acting in his or her individual capacity for violations of constitutionally protected right,” the document says.