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Robert Farley
By Robert Farley February 19, 2010

McConnell says $100,000 in stimulus funds were used for a martini bar and Brazilian steakhouse

In an address on the anniversary of the economic stimulus, President Barack Obama boasted that despite the massive and rapid spending in the $862 billion package, you're not hearing about money being misspent.

"I was still concerned -- Joe (Biden) and I were just talking in the back -- when this thing passed we said $787 billion -- somewhere there’s going to be some story of some money that ended up being misspent; $787 billion spent out over 18 months, that's a lot -- that's a lot of money," Obama said. "And it is a testimony to Vice President Biden and his team that, as Joe puts it, the dog, so far at least, hasn't barked. "

But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell put out a press release titled "Stimulus Anniversary Gifts to Taxpayers: One Year of Spending Taxpayer Dollars Studying Malt Liquor and Marijuana, Researching Drunk Mice, Funding Martini Bars and Steakhouses, and Examining Facebook." It lists 15 stimulus projects. We took a look at several items on this list, as well as a few from House Republican Leader John Boehner to see if they were as billed.

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In this item, we look at McConnell's claim that "$100,000 in stimulus funds (were) used for a Martini Bar and Brazilian Steakhouse."

This one has made the rounds. It appears on Boehner's list as well and has been cited by several Republicans as an example of stimulus waste.

The short answer on this one is that it's true, or used to be. This claim refers to two projects in St. Joseph, Mo., that were awarded Community Development Block Grants by the city, with funds from the stimulus. The martini bar owner, who had been awarded $25,000 to expand his existing business, withdrew his application for the federal funds on Jan. 21, 2010, after it was discovered that the company had liens placed against it by the IRS and the state for failing to pay a little more than $8,000 in taxes, said St. Joseph's Community Development Manager Gerald McCush.

"You get no funds from the stimulus if you owe the IRS money, sorry," McCush said.

So, the martini bar is getting no stimulus.

As for the steakhouse, a city committee awarded $75,000 in Community Development Block Grant recovery money to ECBG LLC, a private company, to build a Brazilian steakhouse downtown.

"We are trying to revitalize the downtown," McCush explained. "That is a priority for the City Council. We have a pretty blighted downtown."

In all, the city received $475,000 worth of Community Development Block Grant funds from the stimulus. A city committee that included two City Council members, two representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, a city planner and some other city residents decided on the projects from among $2 million worth of requests.

The steakhouse was selected not only because it met the city's priority for revitalizing the downtown, McCush said, but also because it would result in a number of new jobs. The steakhouse will anchor a downtown building that includes several other retail spaces. Construction of the building employed roughly 60 construction workers, McCush said, and the restaurant is expected to employ 30 people full time.

The restaurant is scheduled to open in April.

McConnell is largely on target with his claim about the projects and the money they were awarded in stimulus funds. The application for money related to the martini bar has since been withdrawn, though it did initially receive the award. And so we rate this claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

Web site of Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, Stimulus Anniversary Gifts To Taxpayers, the U.S. government’s official website providing easy access to data related to Recovery Act spending

CBS Evening News, "Stimulus Funds for Martini Bars, Rat Sex?" Dec. 9, 2009

St. Joseph News-Press (Missouri), "Council gives green light to Downtown TIF," by Clinton Thomas, Jan. 26, 2010

St. Joseph News-Press (Missouri), "Steve Booher column: Foster's owner doesn't deserve negative publicity," Dec. 14, 2009

St. Joseph News-Press (Missouri), "Mayor interviewed by New York Post: Shearin slotted to appear on FOX News today," by Clinton Thomas, Dec. 10, 2009

St. Joseph News-Press (Missouri), "City approves stimulus grants for downtown: Four development projects OK'd" by Clinton Thomas, Sept. 22, 2009

Interview with St. Joseph's Community Development Manager Gerald McCush, Feb. 19, 2010

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McConnell says $100,000 in stimulus funds were used for a martini bar and Brazilian steakhouse

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