Big Kitchen Hospitality, the Richmond-based restaurant group which owns and operates Tazza Kitchen, has announced plans for a casual Mexican restaurant at the Westhampton Commons development at the corner of Patterson and Libbie Avenues.
Conejo (pronounced Koh-nay-ho) will feature a lunch and dinner menu of fresh drinks, a curated list of mezcals and tequilas, house-made masa, rotisserie meats, tacos, unique salads, and vegetarian options, and a variety of classic Mexican antojitos, the owners said in a press release.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Mexican Chef and cookbook author, Danny Mena, who has become an integral part of our menu and concept development,” said partner Susan Davenport. “He has a wealth of knowledge about Mexican cuisine and Mezcal – both from his upbringing in Mexico City and his work on his cookbook, Made in Mexico. He has owned and operated several Mexican restaurants in New York but was ready for a change and has moved his family to Richmond to join us on the project. As a Virginia Tech graduate, Virginia is familiar ground. The pieces just fell into place.”
“In addition to being Spanish for rabbit, Conejo is one of the varieties of Mexican heirloom corn we plan to use for our masa. And according to the Aztec myth of the 400 Conejos, divine rabbits are the gods of agave spirits. So, the word Conejo represents elements of this restaurant that are important to us. I am very excited to be here in Richmond and be a part of this team,” said Mena.
The 4,474 square foot full-service restaurant will seat 120 inside and 50 on the partially covered patio. A separate entrance will provide easy access for take-out orders.
The targeted opening date is around year-end. Big Kitchen Hospitality Partners include John Davenport, Susan Davenport, and Jeff Grant. The company has engaged 510 Architects as the architect and Whiting-Turner as the general contractor.
Mayor Stoney Releases Statement on Casino Referendum Rolling Snake Eyes
Despite spending in the neighborhood of $2 million Urban One failed to convince voters that the casino was worth the gamble.
Urban One came in strong with promises of jobs, tax revenue, concerts, and green space as part of their $565 million southside casino and resort. The issue was but before Richmond residents yesterday. The vote was too close to call last night but the writing was on the wall this morning and the measure was defeated by 51.4 percent of Richmond voters voting against it.
Mayor Stoney released the following statement earlier this morning.
From the beginning, we said the people would decide. They have spoken, and we must respect their decision.
While I believe this was a $565 million opportunity lost to create well-paying jobs, expand opportunity, keep taxes low and increase revenue to meet the needs of our growing city, I am proud of the transparent and public process we went through to listen to our residents and put this opportunity before our voters.
I’m deeply appreciative to the members of our economic development team who negotiated this project and to Richmond City Council, which overwhelmingly supported it. Finally, I’d like to thank Cathy Hughes, Alfred Liggins and the entire Urban One Team for being willing to commit to, and invest in, our city. They believe in Richmond, as do we. Rest assured, this administration will not be deterred from its ongoing mission to bring other economic development opportunities to our city that will benefit the lives of all who live here.
RTD has a nice summary of the battle and money spent.
The Richmond casino project owners spent approximately $2 million campaigning for the proposal, spending the bulk of their money on media advertisements, campaign mail and volunteers trumpeting its projected benefits, such as $50 million in annual tax revenue for the city and other amenities, including 15 restaurants, an on-site television and radio studio, and a 3,000-seat theater.
Opponents of the project mounted a modest campaign raising about one-tenth of what the casino campaign spent, arguing that a casino in Richmond would worsen poverty and lead to a rise in gambling addiction.
Richmond’s vote is a stark contrast to ballot measures taken last year in four other cities in Virginia, where voters approved referendums with majorities of 65% or greater.
Unemployment benefits aren’t the only thing keeping workers at home
Business owners, chambers of commerce types and some local officials around Virginia swore that ending enhanced unemployment benefits – of $300 a week from the federal government – would propel folks back into the workforce who’d been home during the pandemic. That may not be the case.
Business owners, chambers of commerce types and some local officials around Virginia swore that ending enhanced unemployment benefits – of $300 a week from the federal government – would propel folks back into the workforce who’d been home during the pandemic.
The commonwealth should play a figurative Scrooge, these folks said, because places including restaurants, hotels and small businesses needed these employees. “Turbocharge the cash registers!” they cried.
This line of thinking was a gross oversimplification of the (so-called) post-pandemic economy. Nor do I think it was by accident. Demonizing low-wage workers has been a sport in this country for ages.
Several factors have kept people on the sidelines, not just the government largesse. The recent uptick in COVID-19 infections and persistent vaccine resistance, for example, would make anybody leery of working outside the home.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has repeatedly said the commonwealth will keep doling out the checks until the Sept. 6 deadline, and a spokeswoman confirmed that to me again on Monday. It’s a wise, compassionate decision.
About half of the states, mostly led by Republican governors, ended their programs early, however.
Now a study by a university professor of the early impacts of canceling the benefits suggests there’s been no rush to return to the workforce – even after states declined the money.
“This doesn’t seem to have translated into most of these individuals having jobs in the first 2-3 weeks following expiration,” said Arindrajit Dube, economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “However, there is evidence that the reduced (unemployment insurance) benefits increased self-reported hardship in paying for regular expenses.”
Those checks have been deemed wasteful recently by critics, but several factors are keeping people at home. Shame on those who said otherwise – and depicted many Americans as freeloaders for not waiting on tables, changing sheets, or ringing up customers.
Caveats abound to Dube’s study, as CNBC reported. Some states hadn’t reverted to a lack of federal benefits very long. Dube noted more time and information are needed.
Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer was among those who urged Northam to cut off benefits sooner. His tourist-heavy locality can use workers, especially during the summer. Many of those jobs, though, didn’t pay well and can be physically demanding. Many employers are now dangling fatter paychecks, but finding workers is still a hurdle.
Dyer told me Monday the issue is moot now, since September is around the corner and with it, the end of the peak tourist season. He’d talked to many business owners who were desperate for workers, and Dyer was voicing their concerns to the guv, he told me.
Dyer also said employers at places like Stihl Inc., which have higher-paying and higher-skilled jobs, have told him they can’t fill vacancies. “Workforce is the biggest challenge we’ve got,” Dyer said. “If we’re going to have businesses, we have to supply the bodies.”
Since the pandemic, however, many adults and families are reassessing the necessity of working outside the home. They value spending more time with their children, while giving up lengthy commutes.
And given our notorious reputation for being overworked compared to the rest of developed nations, many Americans wonder if our former job habits still make sense. Everyone is re-evaluating the trade-offs.
Vinod Agarwal is an economics professor at Old Dominion University and deputy director of its Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy. I knew he’d give me a balanced assessment of the unemployment insurance controversy.
Business owners who say the enhanced benefits are the sole cause of the labor shortage are just wrong, he said. Since the pandemic started, some workers left the labor force entirely. Many women, Agarwal noted, made less than their male partners, and they often assumed the primary task of helping children who could not go to in-person school.
Minority women often had the task of taking care of elderly relatives, too. A Trump administration crackdown on J-1 visas for overseas workers also played a role, Agarwal noted, particularly in tourist-heavy areas like Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Among formerly low-income workers, some now have greater flexibility and choices. “Unless the wages go up, a lot of these workers won’t return to the marketplace,” the professor said.
From daycare concerns and costs, to the aggravation of low-paying jobs, many families – especially those with two adults – are reassessing what’s important. Should they return to the market, when employers aren’t meeting their goals and conditions are less than desirable?
Enhanced unemployment benefits are going to end. Our place in the revamped economy is just beginning.
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Elephant Insurance to give $300,000 to organizations impacted by COVID-19
Elephant Insurance announced that the company is launching a new initiative, known as the Helping Herd, that will donate $300,000 to organizations and programs that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or who are providing COVID-19 relief to their community.
Elephant Insurance announced that the company is launching a new initiative, known as the Helping Herd, that will donate $300,000 to organizations and programs that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or who are providing COVID-19 relief to their community. The program will launch in June and gifts will be distributed between June and December 2021.
Through the Helping Herd, Elephant’s hope is to reach at least 50 organizations or programs with the funds, with gifts ranging in size from $2,000 to $20,000. Elephant team members will be involved in the selection process, either by nominating deserving groups or participating in the voting process to finalize the recipients.
The program was made possible by Elephant’s parent company, Admiral Group, which shares in Elephant’s mission of making a positive impact on local communities during challenging times.
“We know the Helping Herd initiative will be able to make a significant impact on individuals and communities that are hurting due to COVID-19, and Elephant is grateful to be in a position to step up and give back in this way,” said Alberto Schiavon, CEO. “The Elephant team – our herd – is eager to be a part of this important process, and we’re so appreciative of the support of Admiral Group to make this possible.”
To be considered to receive funds, applicants must serve the community in at least one of three areas: mental health, physical health, or community health. Interested organizations or programs will be able to apply to receive funds at https://www.elephant.com/contact/helping-herd-submission, where more details on eligibility are available. Applications will be accepted through August 1, 2021.
In addition to the submission form, nominations will be collected from Elephant employees by survey. A large portion of the funds are anticipated to be distributed in Virginia, where Elephant is headquartered, but Helping Herd funds will also go to organizations in other states where Elephant services are offered, including Texas.