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Richmond BizSense.com Reporting Naked Onion Permanently Closed

The take-out sandwich spot has been closed since the start of the pandemic.

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Richmond BizSense.com has the news of another restaurant feeling the sting of Covid-19.

“We have decided to permanently close. With COVID, and giving birth to our second child in May, we just don’t feel comfortable with the daily risk, nor do we feel it responsible to put our staff at risk,” the Comstocks said in a message to BizSense via Facebook.

The Comstocks said they’re not sure what their next move might be. Both are chefs who had prior experience in the culinary scenes in Las Vegas and Richmond before opening The Naked Onion.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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Legend Brewing Company and the Richmond SPCA introduce Bruce’s Bier

Legend Brewing Company introduces Bruce’s Bier, a Bavarian Pilsner that raises funds for the Richmond SPCA.

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The newest offering from Legend Brewing Company is a Bavarian Pilsner inspired by the memory of a local family’s dearly departed dog, Bruce, a big dog with an even bigger personality. The beer’s debut on Thursday, April 22 will support the care of homeless pets at the Richmond SPCA.

At the Richmond SPCA’s 22nd Annual Fur Ball on Saturday, November 7, 2020, auction was moved online, but the popularity of Legend Beer Company’s auction package remained. The unique package was first offered in 2019 with the opportunity to work with the brewers at Richmond’s Legend Brewing Company on a limited-release beer to feature the winning bidder’s own pet on the label. This year’s winning bid from the Goddard family resulted in the creation of a Bavarian Pilsner called “Bruce’s Bier” named after the family’s beloved giant dog, Bruce. 

Though Bruce sadly passed away from old age in December, the Richmond SPCA, Legend Brewing and the Goddard family proudly join together in celebration of his spirit with a Bavarian Pilsner as light, lively and as crisp as the legend himself. 

Bruce’s guardians, Steve and Cheryl Goddard, describe Bruce as a charming dog who brought laughter and fun everywhere he went. “Bruce was a true party animal and a friend to all. We are honored to celebrate him with a delicious and refreshing Legend Brewing pilsner that will help raise critical funds for the homeless pets of the Richmond SPCA,” said Cheryl Goddard.

The pilsner will be available from Legend Brewing Company’s Richmond Brewpub beginning at 11:30 a.m. April 22 [and at the Legend Brewing Depot in Portsmouth starting at 11 a.m. the same day.] Legend Brewing will donate $1 to the Richmond SPCA for every four pack and pint sold from open to close. Outdoor dining and limited indoor dining are available at the Richmond pub with an option for pickup as well.

“In 27 years of being a part of the Richmond community, our long time partnership with the Richmond SPCA is one of our proudest community relationships,” said Dave Gott, Vice President of Legend Brewing Company. “To see the many animals in their care and realize each one is an orphan just waiting for a family to love is heart breaking. There is no way anyone can see these animals and the hope the Richmond SPCA offers and not feel called to action.” 

The Goddard’s winning bid of $5,500 for the auction package went to the Richmond SPCA’s Cinderella Fund and is being used to deliver lifesaving veterinary treatment to sick and injured dogs and cats taken into the care of the local nonprofit humane society.

Richmond SPCA Chief Executive Officer Tamsen Kingry said, “Bruce was incredibly fortunate to have a family like the Goddards who gave him the very best care during all the years they were together. It is a fitting legacy that homeless pets will enjoy the same level of care and veterinary treatment in his memory, and we are so grateful to our partners at Legend Brewing for making that possible.”

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Virginia public transit grapples with reduced ridership, zero fare

Virginia public transit systems from Northern Virginia to Hampton Roads are looking for a path forward after losing riders and revenue during the pandemic. Some transit systems have been harder hit than others.

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By Katharine DeRosa

Virginia public transit systems from Northern Virginia to Hampton Roads are looking for a path forward after losing riders and revenue during the pandemic. Some transit systems have been harder hit than others.

“We are serving a market of essential workers that can’t stay home; they have to use our service,” said Greater Richmond Transit Co. CEO Julie Timm during a recent presentation.

Gov. Ralph Northam issued a state of emergency in March of last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The move prompted limits on public and private gatherings, telework policies and mandates to wear masks in public, although some restrictions have eased.

GRTC faced a “potentially catastrophic budget deficit” since eliminating fares last March in response to the pandemic and reductions in public funding starting in July of this year, according to the organization’s annual report. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding and Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation emergency funding covered the deficit, according to the report.

The transit system lost about 20% of riders when comparing March to November 2019 with the same 9-month period in 2020. Overall, fiscal year-to-date ridership on local-fixed routes decreased the least (-16%), compared to the bus-rapid transit line (-49%) and express routes (-84%), according to GRTC data. Local-fixed routes had a 7% increase from March 2020 to March 2021.

GRTC eliminated fares in March 2020 to avoid “close interactions at bus fareboxes,” Timm said in a statement at the time. CARES Act funding made the move possible. GRTC will offer free rides until the end of June.

GRTC will need an additional $5.3 million when federal funding ceases to continue operating with zero fare, Timm said. Zero fare can be supported through the third round of federal stimulus money and Department of Rail and Public Transportation funding, advertising revenue and other funding sources, Timm said.

“This is the conversation and it’s a hard conversation,” Timm said. “To fare or not to fare?”

GRTC serves a majority Black and majority female riders, according to the 2020 annual report. Commuters account for over half the trips taken on GRTC buses and almost three-quarters of commuter trips are five or more days per week. Nearly 80% of riders have a household income of less than $50,000 per year.

GRTC spends about $1.7 million to collect fares annually, according to Timm. Eliminating fares is more optimal than collecting fares, Timm said in March. She believes in zero fare operation because the bus rates act as a regressive tax, which takes a large percentage of income from low-income earners.

Free fares could lead to overcrowding on buses, opponents argue. However, Timm said that’s not a good reason to abolish the initiative.

“If we have a demand for more transit, I don’t think the answer is to put fares out to reduce the ridership,” Timm said. “I think the answer is to find additional funding sources and commitment to increase service to meet that demand.”

GRTC will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the zero fare model, according to Timm.

“We’ll have a lot of conversations post-COVID about how we consider transit, how we invest in transit and how that investment in transit lifts up our entire region, not just our riders but all of our economy for a stronger marketplace,” Timm said.

GRTC added another bus route as the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March. Route 111 runs in Chesterfield from John Tyler Community College to the Food Lion off Chippenham Parkway. The route surpassed ridership expectations despite being launched during the pandemic, according to the annual report.

GRTC also will receive additional funding from the newly established Central Virginia Transit Authority. The entity will provide dedicated transportation funding for Richmond and eight other localities. The authority will draw money from a regional sales and use tax, as well as a gasoline and diesel fuel tax. GRTC is projected to receive $20 million in funds from the authority in fiscal year 2021. The next fiscal year it receives $28 million and funding will reach $30 million by fiscal year 2026.

These funds cannot be used to assist in zero fare operation, Timm said.

Almost 350,000 riders boarded the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority buses per day on average in 2019, which includes passengers in Northern Virginia. That number dipped to 91,000 average daily boardings in 2020, according to Metro statistics.

Metro’s $4.7 billion budget will maintain service at 80-85% of pre-pandemic levels, according to a Metro press release. Federal relief funds totaling almost $723 million filled Metro’s funding gap due to low ridership.

“The impact of the pandemic on ridership and revenue forced us to consider drastic cuts that would have been necessary absent federal relief funding,” stated Metro Board Chair Paul C. Smedberg. “Thankfully, the American Rescue Plan Act has provided a lifeline for Metro to serve customers and support the region’s economic recovery.”

Hampton Roads Transit buses served 10.7 million people in 2019 and 6.2 million people in 2020. The decline has carried into 2021. Almost 1.6 million passengers took HRT transit buses in January and February 2020 and just over 815,000 have in 2021, resulting in a nearly 50% decrease. HRT spokesperson Tom Holden said he can’t explain why HRT bus services saw a higher drop off than GRTC buses.

“We had a substantial decline in boardings in all our modes of transportation just as every transit agency in the U.S. did,” Holden said.

HRT operated with a zero fare system from April 10 to July 1, 2020. Ridership had a slight uptick from April to October, aside from an August dip. Fares for all HRT transit services were budgeted for 14.2% of HRT’s revenue for Fiscal Year 2020.

“We are hopeful that with vaccinations becoming more widespread, the overall economy will begin to recover, and we’ll see rates increase,” Holden said.

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Richmond Flying Squirrels opening single-game ticket sales April 19th

Individual game tickets for the first four homestands of the 2021 Richmond Flying Squirrels season will go on sale on Monday, April 19 at 9 a.m., the team announced. Fans who have vouchers or credits from tickets for the 2020 season will have first access to redeem them through Friday, April 16 at 5 p.m.

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Individual game tickets for the first four homestands of the 2021 Richmond Flying Squirrels season will go on sale on Monday, April 19 at 9 a.m., the team announced. Fans who have vouchers or credits from tickets for the 2020 season will have first access to redeem them through Friday, April 16 at 5 p.m.

A limited number of tickets will be available for purchase online at SquirrelsBaseball.com/Tickets, by phone at 804-359-FUNN (3866) or at the Flying Squirrels ticket offices at The Diamond.

Tickets for the Flying Squirrels’ first four homestands will be available, including the May 4-9 series against the Hartford Yard Goats, the May 18-23 series against the Bowie Baysox, the June 1-6 series against the Altoona Curve and the June 8-13 series against the Harrisburg Senators.

The full 2021 Flying Squirrels schedule can be found here. Tickets for the remaining 2021 home games will be available at a later date.

Under current guidelines from Major League Baseball of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Flying Squirrels will have limited capacity, socially distanced seating available at The Diamond. Commonwealth of Virginia health and safety guidelines currently allow for outdoor venues to open at 30 percent total capacity, which for The Diamond is 2,943 fans. All fans will be required to wear a mask or face covering at all times except while actively eating or if a health condition precludes you from doing so.

“We are so excited to be back, even though we never left and were a big part of the community over the last year,” Flying Squirrels CEO Todd “Parney” Parnell said. “The Squirrels taking the field again on May 4 will be a big step for community healing. We are not through COVID yet, and we will be enacting protocols to allow for a safe environment for everyone at The Diamond. With limited capacity, tickets will be more sought after than ever. We ask fans for their patience as we work through this unusual process.”

Fans who previously received vouchers or credits for tickets purchased for the 2020 season, including individual game tickets, will have priority access to redeem their vouchers or credits for 2021 tickets. Priority redemptions will begin on Monday, April 12 at 9 a.m. and run through Friday, April 16 at 5 p.m. and can be completed by phone at 804-359-FUNN (3866) or at the Flying Squirrels ticket offices at The Diamond.

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