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Richmond area’s $30 million in 2018 Occupancy Tax revenue sets record

As Richmond Region’s popularity as a tourist destination continues to grow, local jurisdictions are seeing a tangible financial impact.

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As Richmond Region’s popularity as a tourist destination continues to grow, local jurisdictions are seeing a tangible financial impact. For the first time, the collective occupancy tax for hotels in Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and Richmond climbed past the $30 million mark in 2018, a total that marks a near 50 percent increase in just six years and a year-over-year jump of 2.06 percent.

And according to local tourism officials, the rosy revenue trend line has contributed to S&P Global Ratings’ decision to raise its long-term rating on the Greater Richmond Convention Center Authority’s debt from “A+” to “AA-,” representing a jump of one rating category.

“These figures reflect the empirical evidence of what I think everyone knows by now, and that is Richmond – with its great restaurants and breweries, cultural and historic assets and parks and year-round sports tourism – has arrived as a top-flight tourism destination,” said Jack Berry, president and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism.  “Tourism strengthens quality of life and provides an economic stimulus not only to hotel and restaurants and the like, but as these statistics bear out, it also contributes significant revenue to local governments.”

The current occupancy tax rate in the region for hotels, motels, campgrounds and other entities is 8 percent.

Bond Rating Moves Up

In announcing the improved bond rating, S&P Global Ratings said that its conclusions were based on the “generally stable growth in the pledged revenues.” Additional criteria included the region’s “very strong economic base” featuring a “broad and diverse economy;” stable employment base; moderate levels of volatility; and strong coverage and liquidity.  The rating announcement also noted the region’s popularity for attracting events such as NASCAR and a variety of sports tourism competitions, and it cited the fact that Richmond has been named as a “top 10 choice destination” by Lonely Planet and Forbes magazine.

“The improved bond rating is a validation that we are moving in the right direction, and in practical terms, it means that the authority can borrow at more attractive interest rates,” said Michael Meyers, Spectra’s general manager at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.  “It makes the news twice as good – higher revenues, reduced costs in servicing our debt.  Suffice it to say, we are in a very healthy position.”

Convention Center Renovations

The convention center also announced that it is undertaking a comprehensive 24-month renovation at a cost of around $7 million. The work includes the installation of LED lamping in the exhibition hall and a digital signage program; marquees on 3rd and 5th streets; the renovation of the food court; and the replacement of aging furniture, among other projects. The renovations will be paid for out of existing funds earmarked for capital improvements.

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Venture Richmond teams up with city for “Picnic in a Parklet” program to assist businesses during reopening phases

“We acknowledge the difficulty Richmond businesses face when trying to safely reopen and want to do what we can to make that easier on them,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking for Venture Richmond. “Parklets have the potential to offer an attractive, comfortable space for customers to physically-distance adjacent to the business, which may be needed for a smoother reopening. We look forward to working with any business in the city that submits a request.”

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Venture Richmond has announced a new initiative, “Picnic in a Parklet,” a program designed to assist Richmond restaurants and other businesses with Phase 2 and 3 of Forward Virginia. Through this new partnership with the City of Richmond, business owners can receive design and permitting assistance for their requests for more outdoor space, particularly parklets.

Parklets are outdoor patio spaces constructed in the on-street parking lane of the street in front of a business that can function as an area for customers to gather and/or take to-go orders and eat outside in a physically-distanced environment. Parklets are, by definition, public space; but, restaurants can offer lightly packaged to-go orders for people who simply want to dine in the parklet in front of the restaurant.

“Transforming our use of public space innovatively and sustainably requires partnerships just like this one,” said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. “By linking the business and design communities, this program will expand the city’s growing network of creatively designed public spaces.”

Business-owners who are interested in temporarily converting an on-street parking space adjacent to their storefront into a parklet will be connected with Venture Richmond to better assess their needs. If a parklet will be helpful and appropriate, Venture Richmond will work with the American Institute of Architects Richmond Chapter (AIA Richmond) to connect businesses with a certified architect for pro-bono parklet design services. Venture Richmond will assist the applicant through the steps needed to obtain a permit from the City of Richmond.

“We acknowledge the difficulty Richmond businesses face when trying to safely reopen and want to do what we can to make that easier on them,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking for Venture Richmond. “Parklets have the potential to offer an attractive, comfortable space for customers to physically-distance adjacent to the business, which may be needed for a smoother reopening. We look forward to working with any business in the city that submits a request.”

Unless otherwise specified or revoked, parklet permits are valid for three years. All requests within Richmond City limits will be considered.

Requests for parklets can be submitted through the RVA Strong website. General information about parklets can be found here, and more information about the City of Richmond’s Parklet Program can be found here.

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Former staff from Julep’s, Pasture, Comfort launch Richmond’s first “ghost kitchen”

Their business, Dunharrow Concepts, launched its first restaurant concept on Thursday, June 25th with a limited menu. Garden Party is a strictly vegetarian and vegan concept featuring indulgent snacks, sandwiches, and salads. 

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Jon Martin, formerly of Julep’s and Pasture, and Liz Clifford, formerly of Comfort, have opened Richmond’s first ghost kitchen.

A ghost kitchen is a delivery-only restaurant that allows the parent business to operate multiple concepts from one commercial kitchen.

Their business, Dunharrow Concepts, launched its first restaurant concept on Thursday, June 25th with a limited menu. Garden Party is a strictly vegetarian and vegan concept featuring indulgent snacks, sandwiches, and salads.

With no brick and mortar, Clifford and Martin can keep the focus on the food.

“We’ve spent our entire professional careers feeding people,” Clifford said. “The ghost kitchen concept allows us to keep overhead low. We don’t have to worry about the expenses that come with running a traditional restaurant including designing, maintaining, and staffing a physical space.”

Dunharrow Concepts operates out of Hatch Kitchen RVA, a food and beverage incubator and commercial kitchen located at Clopton Siteworks in Manchester. They have partnered with UberEats with plans to add other delivery services in the coming weeks.

The husband-wife duo, who moved from DC two years ago, is passionate about ensuring those with food restrictions don’t have to miss out on experiencing a good meal.

“Cooking for vegans with a nut allergy makes you push boundaries,” says Clifford. “With all ordering online, items can be easily customized to accommodate most dietary restrictions and food preferences.”

Menu items range from a BBQ Tofu Bahn Mi, crispy green beans, a Tex Mex Salad to homemade fudgy brownies.

Next month, Clifford and Martin plan to launch two additional concepts, Fat Kid Sandwiches which will feature overstuffed subs and clubs, and Victory Garden which focuses on made-to-order salads.

For more information on Dunharrow Concepts and Garden Party, visit gardenpartyrva.com or follow @gardenpartyrva on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Carytown Panera closes permanently, joins Stony Point location’s announced closure last week

The Carytown Panera has shuttered permanently, according to Richmond BizSense. The announcement follows another last week indicating the Stony Point location will be shut down for good, too.

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The Carytown Panera has shuttered permanently, according to Richmond BizSense. The announcement follows another last week indicating the Stony Point location will be shut down for good, too.

From Richmond BizSense:

Another local outpost of Panera Bread has hit the chopping block, this time in Carytown.

The restaurant chain’s location at 10 N. Nansemond St. in the Carytown Place shopping center is permanently closed. The closure follows that of the Panera outpost in Stony Point Fashion Park.

It’s unclear when or why the Carytown Panera permanently closed. The restaurant didn’t alert Maryland Financial Investors, which manages the center, about the closing, property manager Scott Cherry said.

“We found out about it the same way the community did,” Cherry said.

Continue reading here.

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