On June 9 2021, an Imgur user shared the following viral tweet, about a Florida-based resturant called Sliders Seaside Grill (and referencing ongoing disinformation campaigns about purported labor shortages):
Handouts for me but not for thee says Sliders Seaside Grill in FL. pic.twitter.com/HU2RF634Mo
— Christina Di Vito (@CNDiVito) June 8, 2021
In the above tweet (“Handouts for me but not for thee says Sliders Seaside Grill in FL”), an image to the left showed a sign attributed to Sliders Seaside Grill on Amelia Island in Florida. It read:
Sadly, due to government handouts no one wants to work anymore. Therefore, we are short staffed. Please be patient with the staff that did come to work today and remember to tip your server. They chose to show up to serve you.
Restaurant Blames Govt Handouts for Staff Shortage
However, the second image in the tweet was presumably a reaction to the very public complaints by Sliders Seaside Grill about government “handouts.” It showed a “loan” in the amount of $347,600 under the well-known Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), disbursed to a Sliders Seaside Grill on April 12 2020.
One response tweet claimed that there was more than one, and added that in fact Sliders Seaside Grill had obtained at least two forgivable PPP “loans” in 2020, with $548,765 disbursed to a Sliders Seaside Grill on February 2 2021 (bringing the total of the two PPP disbursements to $896,365):
They got a second one too! pic.twitter.com/6nM9yELtA2
— Matt Ruscigno (@MattRuscigno) June 8, 2021
Sliders Seaside Grill’s sign was part of a larger trend involving similar “no one wants to work anymore” signs at restaurants and chains, many of which had suspiciously similar phrasing. Broadly, the claims were part of American discourse about a purported labor shortage — which was vaunted by media outlets and business owners in 2021, and strongly disputed by those with expertise in economics and labor:
Whether Sliders Seaside Grill shared such a sign was not in dispute, as the company consented to the Fox News segment labeled, “Restaurant Blames Govt Handouts for Staff Shortage.” As for the claim about their receipt of one or more PPP loans, ProPublica created a searchable database of which businesses had received “government handouts,” and the amounts of those payments.
We searched for “Sliders Seaside” and “FL,” and as both the first tweet and response indicated, no fewer than two results were returned:
According to the PPP database, Sliders Seaside Grill received $347,600 on April 12 2020, and received $548,765 on February 2 2021; per Facebook posts, Sliders Seaside Grill put up their “Sadly, due to government handouts no one wants to work anymore” signs in May 2021 — about three months after taking an additional half a million dollars in government assistance.
Sliders Seaside Grill’s sign lamenting “government handouts” went viral in May 2021, and a representative for the restaurant went on Fox News to complain about a “labor shortage” in June 2021. As the tweet claimed, Sliders Seaside Grill received a PPP “handout” in April 2020 — and as indicated in a reply tweet, the business went back for another $548,765 in February 2021.