Despite ads by Bank of America and others touting their records of helping small businesses, some merchants say their loan applications are routinely rejected.
The TV commercials are heartwarming – Richard and Gloria Pink, sitting in their busy hot-dog stand on La Brea Avenue, remember how Bank of America gave Richard's parents the loan that helped them build their wiener business more than 50 years ago.
In the ad, Bank of America says it helps small businesses grow by giving them loans, which is especially important here in California, in an economy that can't seem to catch a break.
The ad is one of many by the country's biggest banks touting their lending records in recent months, but the reality has proved much different for business owners such as Paul Boettcher, who co-owns five Los Angeles-area restaurants, including Busby's East and West, the Sagebrush Cantina and Ye Olde King's Head.
Boettcher said that in the last few years he has applied for loans from dozens of banks he's done business with in the past in hopes of opening three more restaurants. With real estate values depressed, he said it's a great time to buy closed restaurants on the cheap. Real estate has plummeted in value, so he can buy up bankrupt places for cheap and turn them around.
But the big banks didn't look twice at his loan documents before turning him down, said Boettcher, who has never managed a restaurant that failed.
"The smaller banks are the only ones who will even entertain the idea," said Boettcher, a slim man with Clark Kent-style glasses and a graying soul patch.
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