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OPINION: Richmond’s food and beverage establishments put us on the map; now’s our time to have their backs

On a good day, restaurants and breweries operate on razor-thin margins and depend on a constant stream of foot traffic into their establishments to keep the lights on. Their staff are largely reliant on tips and often have little in the way of a safety net or benefits. Now, most of these businesses have gone dark. Maybe for a week. Maybe for months. We don’t know yet. What we do know is that this is going to be absolutely devastating for the service industry. What can we do to help?

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The past 11 years have been a historic run for the economy. The booming market has created prosperity and given birth to many opportunities. It’s transformed our city’s skyline as new buildings pop up all over town. And it’s enabled entrepreneurs to take risks and create a robust dining and drinking scene locally that has quite literally put Richmond on the map. Over the past decade, RVA went from being known for being the capital of the Confederacy, if it was known outside of our region at all, to racking up accolades from some of the nation’s – and world’s – most renowned publications as a place to visit, see, and be seen.

Inventive chefs have pushed boundaries, tried new concepts that a decade ago would have been unheard of, and introduced diners to new cuisines and tastes. Brewers took a chance on empty warehouses in neighborhoods like Scott’s Addition and collectively built Richmond into one of the nation’s most robust beer scenes, period. It’s no exaggeration to say that Richmond as we know it has been completely transformed by our food and beverage purveyors. We owe a lot to each of them. And today – and in the coming months – they’re going to need us unlike ever before.

On a good day, restaurants and breweries operate on razor-thin margins and depend on a constant stream of foot traffic into their establishments to keep the lights on. Their staff are largely reliant on tips and often have little in the way of a safety net or benefits. Now, most of these businesses have gone dark. Maybe for a week. Maybe for months. We don’t know yet. What we do know is that this is going to be absolutely devastating for the service industry. Jobs will be (and already have been) lost and folks will lose their livelihoods. One of your favorite spots (if not many) won’t reopen after this passes. Mark my words – Richmond’s dining scene will be reshaped and the entire landscape as we know it will shift. The impact and recovery time of the industry locally – and nationally – will be likened to a tornado having wiped out buildings in a hit-or-miss pattern.

The closure of these neighborhood standbys is an incredibly painful, unprecedented, but necessary reality as the United States collectively aims to slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the most vulnerable populations are protected from the potentially deadly effects of this disease. It’s easy for my generation to brush this off. And some of my friends have, in a very cavalier and obtuse manner. After all, we’re least likely to be affected by the spread of the Coronavirus. But, (and this may be hard for some of us Millenials to hear), it’s not about us. This is about protecting older loved ones in our lives who could contract this and not fare nearly as well as us. It’s about flattening the curve of new cases and preventing our healthcare system from being completely overwhelmed, like in Italy. I was out and about myself as recently as last weekend, but my stance on the seriousness of all of this – and our collective responsibility to one another – has changed entirely.

So, what’s one to do? How do we balance this need to practice social distancing with the need to support our friends and family in the service industry who will be so deeply hurt by this shutdown?

  • Establish contact: First and foremost, keep in contact with your loved ones in the service industry. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. This is a time of great anxiety and fear for a lot of people. Lend an ear. (This goes for our loved ones on the front lines in the healthcare industry right now, too).
  • Connect resources: Connect friends and family with resources like the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program, providing grants of up to $2,500 on an as-needed basis. Furthermore, if you’re financially in a position to do so, donate to the fund. Locally, the Holli Fund (named in honor of late local food writer Hollister Lindley) is also providing emergency financial assistance.
  • Make a purchase: Think of the restaurants and other local businesses you normally frequent and buy a gift card to enjoy their food, beverages, services, or products at a later date. Consider this a “micro-loan” to your favorite place that may make the difference between them making it through and never reopening. For a list of Richmond-area businesses from whom you can purchase an online gift card, go here.
  • Take it to go: A lot of Richmond-area establishments are offering curbside to-go service as well as delivery. Find an updated list of those you can order from today on RVAHub, here.

Stay healthy, be kind, and love one another. We’ll all get through this together – even if we’re separated while we do it.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Support local restaurants March 30 – April 5 with Virginia is for Restaurant Lovers Takeout Week

Beginning Monday, March 30, VTC and VRLTA are encouraging Virginians who are able to participate in the takeout challenge by ordering takeout, delivery, or curbside pickup from area restaurants throughout the week.

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To support restaurants across the Commonwealth that have been forced to close dining rooms due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) and Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, and Travel Association (VRLTA) have announced Virginia is for Restaurant Lovers Takeout Week.

Beginning Monday, March 30, VTC and VRLTA are encouraging Virginians who are able to participate in the takeout challenge by ordering takeout, delivery, or curbside pickup from area restaurants throughout the week.

VTC and VRLTA will partner with destinations across the state to help encourage the support of local restaurants across the Commonwealth. Participating partners and consumers should use the hashtag #VirginiaEatsLocal when posting on social media.

Virginia Tourism will also sell limited edition “Virginia is for Restaurant Lovers” t-shirts, with a portion of the proceeds donated to local relief efforts for food service workers in crisis. T-shirts can be purchased as well.

“Virginia’s restaurant industry has been hit especially hard during this time,” said Eric Terry, President of Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, and Travel Association. “Restaurants are so vital to our economy and we encourage those who can afford to do so, to continue to help out these establishments that have helped to put Virginia on the map.”

“Virginia has some of the finest restaurants anywhere in America,” said Rita McClenny, President and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. “We hope that by participating in Virginia is for Restaurant Lovers Takeout Week, Virginians will be reminded about the fantastic food options right in our backyard and how important they are to localities and their citizens especially during this time.”

The foodservice industry follows strict local public health guidelines. To meet these guidelines, restaurants have safety protocols and best practices in place. Virginians are encouraged to avoid traveling if sick, maintain at least six feet distance from others and to wash hands often. Visit virginiaisforrestaurantlovers.com for more.

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Restaurant employee fundraisers you can donate to right now

It’s tough out there right now for those in the service industry. With dining rooms closed and restaurants trying to stay afloat by getting creative with takeout, delivery, and other endeavors, employees without much of a safety net are hurting. Below are all of the employee fundraisers we’ve seen floating around that you can donate to right now and make a difference.

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It’s tough out there right now for those in the service industry. With dining rooms closed and restaurants trying to stay afloat by getting creative with takeout, delivery, and other endeavors, employees without much of a safety net are hurting. Below are all of the employee fundraisers we’ve seen floating around that you can donate to right now and make a difference.

Another way you can make a difference is to donate to The Holli Fund. I (Trevor) was one of a handful of folks asked to host a virtual happy hour last week (embedded at the bottom of the post). This is an application- and need-based fund that gives grants to folks in both the front and back of house at restaurants and breweries across the area. The fund has done transformational things like paid folks’ mortgages, car payments, and fulfilled other important needs. You can learn more here and donate by texting “DONATE” and your amount (i.e. DONATE $5) to 805-518-8333.

Also check out our ongoing list of restaurants offering delivery and takeout, the coronavirus support list, and all of our COVID-19 coverage here. While we’re at it, we could use your support right now, too. RVAHub is a labor of love for both Richard Hayes and I, and we’re doing our best to keep the public up to date on important news and updates. With our ad network suspended, we’re running the site at a loss currently. It would mean the world to us if you were able to spare a couple o’ bucks and chip in to our cause. We’d love you for it.




Restaurant/employee fundraisers

 

More from Chad Williams of “30 is the New 20“:

Information on donating to The Holli Fund

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OPINION: Legislators, we need you to be leaders

“We are the businesses that drive the economy. I call on you now to see past your campaign contributors, fundraising sponsors, and lobbyists and start representing the voters of this country. Do not fail us again.”

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By Phillip Ray

My name is Phillip Ray. Together with my brother, Chris, I own and operate Center of the Universe Brewing Company and Origin Beer Lab located in Ashland, Virginia. My brother and I rely on the staff of our small business for our livelihoods and they rely on us for theirs. We made a deal with them: they trade us their most precious commodity, their time; and in return, we offer them a safe and reliable place to work, a benefits package that provides health care in case of illness, a savings plan for their futures, a fair livable wage and a comfortable work-life balance. This week we are forced to break that deal.

This is by no means the first time our small business has faced hardships, but this is an unprecedented situation – one which I do not believe we can survive without your help. We have lost two of the three markets where our goods are sold and our revenues have been cut by 70% because of this. I am writing today to ask for your help. I am asking for you to help not just our business, but the 30 million small businesses in this country who are suffering.

Now is the time to help the workers in this country who contribute the most to the economy and receive the least amount of remuneration for their efforts. Now is not the time to send multibillion-dollar bailout packages to multibillion-dollar corporations. Those companies received their bailouts in 2018 with the historic corporate tax cut you voted into law. The result of that bailout was not improved salaries, increased benefits packages, or even a safety net for workers or the companies themselves. Instead, the corporations you bailed out participated in record stock buybacks and paid massive dividends to their shareholders. They used their bailouts for the benefit of a few wealthy stakeholders. Now, when crisis hits, they want you to use taxpayer money to bail them out again.

This is the definition of privatizing profits and socializing losses. For far too long, this country has asked the most financially vulnerable among us to bear the brunt of the fiscal pain when disaster strikes and reap the fewest rewards when the economy is booming. This crisis has proven to be no exception.

Small businesses in this country are often inefficient and ours is no exception. This inefficiency is exactly what keeps the economy moving. We spend the majority of our budgets on human power and earn razor-thin margins. Our revenues do not sit in our checking accounts or investment accounts or in our own stock ownership. We do not have executive payrolls or massive lobbying budgets. We earn and spend our money locally, benefiting the greater economy not just our own.

We are the businesses that drive the economy. I call on you now to see past your campaign contributors, fundraising sponsors, and lobbyists and start representing the voters of this country. Do not fail us again.

Pass legislation that immediately puts money into the hands of small businesses and working Americans. Pass legislation that guarantees every American access to health care. Pass legislation guaranteeing all Americans with a full-time job can support their families. Pass legislation that protects every American during times of crisis. I call on you to pass these laws and to pass them today. This is the deal you made with the American people when you asked for our votes. Now is the time to honor that deal.

Faithfully,

Phillip Ray
Co-Founder, Center of the Universe Brewing Company & Origin Beer Lab

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