Florida’s small businesses, including THIS ONE, breathed a small sigh of relief after the State unveiled an Emergency Bridge Loan program that offered low-interest loans to small businesses struggling to make payroll. In the week since applications have opened up the state has run out of money and…of course has been abused by fraud.

Before the state’s Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program ran out of money earlier this week some business owners managed to get five and even 10 emergency loans, but only 815 people got anything while 37,000 others got nothing.

Among the 815 people who received multiple loans are the proprietors of Panther Coffee, a company with six locations that consistently gets me to pay more than $4.00 for an iced tea.

“$4.00 is too much to spend on an iced tea!” I say every time I have to go to Panther Coffee to meet someone who gives me the stink eye when I suggest meeting at Starbucks who only charges me $3.20 for an iced tea. But still I pay it, because they are a local company and they support the local community and give jobs to all of those young tattooed people who don’t know enough about music to work at Sweat.

But are they really helping the community if they take more than what they should? I’m not saying they acted illegally or anything, but is it not immoral to run a business under multiple corporations and then apply for limited State funds totaling $400,000 when so many other actually small businesses will get nothing and go out of business? I applied for a loan for The Plantain also seeking funds to cover “payroll” but there is no money left over. Now, my application was fraudulent because we have no employees and utilize a group of unpaid “interns”, but it’s okay when I do it because it’s satire and protected by the First Amendment probably. The point is Panther’s actions have hurt me and lots of other companies that actually need the money.

Panther Coffee is by no means the only company taking advantage of this situation, but it is the one that I frequent the most and that has tried to situate itself as a local brand that cares about our community. And that is the only reason I give them more than $4.00 for a cup of iced tea that is, frankly, mostly ice. There are lots of other bad actors taking advantage of this situation, and maybe it is just the Miami way to get what you can at any expense. That’s why toilet paper is still sold out and someone will cut you off on the 826 and then give someone the finger as they try to merge into their lane. But I don’t think it’s cool. And I think Panther is less cool because of it.

So good job, Panther Coffee. You got yours and because of you and companies like you, 37,000 other people get nothing and I missed out on my own chance to defraud the State of Florida.