Robert De Niro Under Fire After His Nobu Restaurants Received Millions in PPP Loans Amid COVID-19

Robert De Niros Nobu Restaurants Got Millions in PPP Loans Amid COVID-19
Robert De Niro at the Nobu Hotel opening in 2018. Nick Harvey/Shutterstock

Robert De Niro‘s Nobu restaurant group is under fire after receiving millions of dollars in Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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The upscale chain, which was founded by De Niro, 76, celebrity chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa and film producer Meir Teper in 1994, has outposts all over the world, including several in the United States.

According to government filings released on Monday, July 6, the Nobu brand, which also includes several luxury hotels, took 14 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration for as much as $28 million. The loans were designed specifically to help small businesses struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

More specifically, the chain received funding for locations scattered across the country, from California to Texas and New York, according to the data. The outpost in Malibu is often frequented by celebrities including Kim Kardashian and her husband Kanye West, Chrissy Teigen and Spiderman star Tobey Maguire.

Eateries across the nation were among the biggest recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program, a key component of the government’s response to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. Other recipients of multimillion-dollar loans include Ruby Tuesday, TGI Fridays, P.F. Chang’s and Five Guys.

When it was revealed in April that big-name restaurants such as Shake Shack and Ruth’s Hospitality Group were given loans, public outcry followed and the administration warned companies asking for federal aid to ensure they qualified for the program.

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Shake Shack ultimately returned the $10 million in PPP loans it received in April and Ruth’s Chris followed suit, giving back $20 million. “As we watched this opportunity play out over the weeks, it was very clear that the program was underfunded and wasn’t set up for everyone to win,” Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti told CNN at the time. “By returning our $10 million, that $10 million can go back into the pot and go to the people that deserve it. We hope it can go inspire the next round.”

As Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin clarified at the time, the program was not intended for companies that could reasonably tap other forms of capital, such as bank credit lines.

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Per the data released on Monday, the Nobu group appears to be one of the bigger beneficiaries of the program, getting at least $11 million and as much as $28 million in assistance. Since the disclosures give a range for the loan sizes, it’s impossible to find out the precise tally.

According to an August 2018 CNN Business article, Nobu Hospitality hoped to reach $1 billion in revenue by 2023. “If you are ever lucky enough to have anything be successful … make sure you don’t short change yourself,” De Niro told the outlet at the time.

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