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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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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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