A Wish for the New Year
The Bring Your Own Blanket campaign urges people to bundle up and eat outside on a sunny day. (Photo courtesy of R.J. Café )
Madison Coffee House on Boston Post Road in Madison remains busy outside on nice days where hot coffee and hot sandwiches can be enjoyed on tables outside. (Photo by Pem McNerney/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Many restaurants have upped their take out game, including at Grano Arso on Main Street in Chester, which is offering meals that can be finished up at home to ensure the highest quality for the meal. The fresh semolina pasta cooks up in about five minutes, and the cacio e pepe sauce includes pecorino Romano cheese, pepper, and butter. (Photo courtesy of Liz Morison Dickinson )
Nino and Juliana Pisanzio, the owners of La Marea, say they can’t wait to offer indoor dining again but that, in the meantime, they hope people enjoy their newest venture called Go Mangia, offering prepared foods. (Photo courtesy of La Marea )
See if your favorite restaurants are now also offering cocktails to go. At Grano Arso you can get the Smoking Gun, the Lower Manhattan, and Hay-Lay’s Dilemma, all bottled up and ready to go, among several other options. (Photo courtesy of Grano Arso )
At the end of May, I wrote a story about how restaurants along the shoreline were bouncing back after having been closed at the start of the pandemic.
That was then.
This is now: As we enter what are traditionally the leanest months for restaurants on the shoreline, already more than 600 restaurants in Connecticut have gone out of business, a trend that the Connecticut Restaurant Association attributes primarily to fallout from the pandemic.
That is why help for Connecticut’s restaurants, the backbone of our communities’ main street and a major employer in Connecticut, is high on my wish list in the New Year.
That’s why I’m supporting those who are petitioning state and federal officials to continue to provide meaningful support for our restaurant industry. Robert Marcarelli, a restaurant consultant and broker, says what’s needed is another program like the paycheck protection program with 100 percent forgiveness to help pay for rent, payroll, and personal protective equipment.
He says while he’s grateful for a recent Connecticut program that provided mini-grants for small businesses, it was only for $5,000, while states like Rhode Island offered up to $30,000 for a similar program. In Massachusetts, a program rolled out at the end of the year provides up to $75,000 for affected businesses, including restaurants.
Here’s hoping state officials are listening. Governor Ned Lamont did announce last week that he would release $35 million as part of a new grant program that could benefit up to 2,000 businesses with amounts up to $30,000 and he said bars and restaurants would be among the beneficiaries. Lamont’s stated goal is to use these funds as bridge to another federal paycheck protection program.
“Restaurants cannot wait for the federal government to come to an agreement. We need Governor Lamont to release these funds as a grant or restaurants will not make it another month,” Marcarelli says.
More restaurant closings will continue to push the state’s unemployment rate up, he says.
Ways to Help
He urges us to sign a petition at https://www.change.org/saveCTrestaurants and to text SAVECONNECTICUTRESTAURANTS to 52886 to find out more ways we can help.
In the meantime, if you’re not comfortable eating inside, look for a sunny day, call your buddies, bundle up, bring your blanket, and get together for an impromptu meal outside. Get food delivered. Get take out. Some restaurants are getting even more creative with takeout, offering ingredients and instructions on how to make the meal fresh when you get home. Some are offering drinks and cocktails to go.
And, sure the holidays are over, but let’s look for reasons to thank people and give them gift cards from restaurants. And if you can’t think of anyone in particular to thank, consider the Gift Card Project at www.thegiftcardproject.com where you can send gift cards to be donated to organizations and individuals doing good during these difficult times.
Those of us who are still able to should take every opportunity to support our local restaurants during these lean winter months.