COVID has had a chilling effect on the public as a whole — curtailing many of our typical activities — and on small local businesses that are struggling to survive in particular. Combine that now with cabin fever: “irritability, listlessness and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter.” It’s a recipe for increased stress.
But while we can’t throw away caution, we can take steps to cope that are beneficial to many. In that spirit, the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership has been promoting the Take Out Pledge, a grass-roots effort asking residents to commit to patronizing a local business twice a week and then posting about it online.
It’s an effort that we support, also.
Restaurants are likely participants, as are bars, coffeehouses and retail shops as well as some entertainment venues and nonprofits, like the Bookmarks bookstore.
The idea is for people to visit, buy and then share their experiences and goods in photos on social media using the hashtag #takeoutpledgews. Those who can’t venture out but still want to help can purchase gift cards from many local businesses.
Participating in the pledge wouldn’t be an exercise in charity — many excellent local businesses thrive when our streets are full of customers. They’ve got the same goods and services as always, they just don’t have the same amount of traffic.
Some have taken innovative steps to keep their doors open. Several local restaurants have invested in “bubbles” — clear plastic tents that can hold parties of six to eight people in relative safety, with air circulating well. They include The Porch Kitchen and Cantina in West End Mill Works and The Katharine Brasserie & Bar downtown.
1703 Restaurant constructed an outdoor dining room with a lot of air circulation that stays toasty. "We're really not making any money," Joe Curran, who with Molly Curran owns the restaurant, told the Journal’s Michael Hastings earlier this week. "But it's worth it. This is keeping the wait staff employed."
Some are getting by with the assistance of the Paycheck Protection Program.
And some new businesses are forging ahead despite the difficulties, like downtown Winston-Salem’s first vegan restaurant, Dom’s, which opened Jan. 14 on Spruce Street, and Board Babe, a charcuterie-board business on Fifth Street.
None of this should be taken as permission to disregard the strictures of coronavirus.
Just as these business people have adapted to the challenge, so have the rest of us. We’ve learned, largely by necessity, how to function in the midst of the pandemic. We do so while reducing the risk of transmitting or receiving the virus by consistently observing the stringent safety precautions: wearing masks, washing our hands often and standing far apart. We can’t relent now, with an end just barely in sight.
But we can be judicious. Prudent. Smart.
Some well-liked restaurants closed under the pressure of the pandemic — not because they did anything wrong, but because of simple circumstances; they had fewer resources to weather the storm than Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates.
They include Bib’s Downtown and the Lighthouse.
They serve as a harsh reminder that we so often don’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone.
“If we value the character, the personal touch in the community that these small businesses offer, we need to support them now if we want to enjoy them when all of this is over,” Winston-Salem Partnership president Jason Thiel said recently on a video to promote the Take Out Pledge. He’s right.
This weekend would be a good time to start.
Don’t forget to tip your server generously.