• April 2, 2020

NATIONAL VIEW: Brainstorming ideas to help small businesses, restaurants and bars - Odessa American: Guest Columns

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NATIONAL VIEW: Brainstorming ideas to help small businesses, restaurants and bars

THE POINT: Any small business or nonprofit that is shut down will be deprived vital revenue.

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Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2020 2:30 am

For most people, the measures required to cope with the coronavirus epidemic are inconvenient and stressful. But for restaurants and bars, the effect is severe and quite possibly disastrous. Being forced to close their doors to patrons through March 30, as ordered by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, not only will cost them revenue, but is likely to put some at risk of closing for good.

That would be bad for their owners, bad for their employees, bad for their suppliers, bad for neighboring businesses and bad for their customers. The economic repercussions of this mandate, necessary though it is, will be far-reaching. So if you value that mom-and-pop diner and lively corner tavern, look for ways to help ensure that they will still be around once the crisis passes.

You could hardly blame those who own or work at these businesses if they’re gripped by panic. “Right now, first and foremost we’re in a fight for our survival,” Rob Katz, co-owner of Boka Restaurant Group, told the Tribune. “Fixed expenses are incredibly high in our industry. And if cash flow ceases to exist, things get critical very, very quickly.”

Some dining establishments have pledged to help their workers get through the crisis. But others have had to reduce hours or cut staff, at least temporarily. Employees who depend heavily on tips will be especially hurt. The kitchen workers, bartenders and servers deprived of their usual income may be unable to pay rent or buy groceries.

What can you do? A couple of solutions come to mind. The first is to order from those places that stay open offering food for via delivery, takeout or curbside pickup. Those orders will keep their kitchens busy and their income from vanishing. It will allow some workers, if not all, to keep working. It will keep managers from having to destroy — that is, to waste — fresh food as it spoils.

Buying out in lieu of dining out also allows you to save for another time all the rice, beans and frozen pizza you’ve stockpiled. And maybe you could use an excuse to get out of the house in a way that doesn’t violate the social distancing rules recommended by public health authorities.

Another recourse is to buy gift cards from these places for future use. That way, they get the money now, when the need is dire, and you get to look forward to a good meal or night out later — with the tab already paid. This option could be particularly useful for places that normally do a brisk lunch trade from workers in nearby buildings, which may be far away from those workers when they’re staying home.

It’s not only bars and restaurants that are affected by this disruption. Any small business or nonprofit that caters to the public and is shut down will also be deprived vital revenue during this period. If your favorite music venue is closed, you might order tickets online for a show that’s weeks or months away. If there’s a theater you like that can’t stage plays, you might make a tax-deductible donation.

Once all of us start thinking about all the people we normally encounter who are being hurt by the crisis, we’ll come up with our own ideas. Then let’s put them to use.

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