FO O D & D RI NK
resources that chain restaurants have. We aren’t going to make it if people don’t come to us instead of going to Chipotle or Panera.” COPA’s Elizabeth urges customers to advocate for themselves. “Do your homework,” she advises. “Call the restaurants, look on their websites to see what they are doing to keep people safe. “Restaurants are running out of time, and the help that is coming may not arrive in time,” she warns. Many of these owners point to things like gift cards and takeout as lifelines right now. The restaurants might not turn a profit, but it helps keep the lights on, and during these unprecedented times, even just being able to pay a utility bill can feel like a win. “I hope that the general public realizes that we are right on the front lines,” says Pete of It’s a Southern Thing. “We are just trying to serve people, give people a nice meal and a chance to get out of the house. We’re not gonna put the brakes on anytime soon. If you have the faith that eventually things will get better … ” he trails off. Keep the faith. Work hard. Ask for help. Trust your community. It’s a whole new ballgame for local restaurants, and they’re trying every play in the book in order to survive. liquor licenses to food deliveries has been delayed because of COVID-19.” Annie Johnston, owner of La Vita Dolce in Chapel Hill’s Southern Village, was all set to open a new restaurant a few doors down. With the pandemic slowing everything and Annie forced to devote her attention to the cafe, Market and Moss’ May opening got pushed to September. “Sometimes the universe has other plans, and the best I can do is accept that, adapt and find new ways to create exceptional experiences for our stakeholders,” Annie says.
ne thing every restaurant owner we spoke to adamantly voiced was the need for the dining public to help. “In my lifetime, I have never seen anything like this,” says Tre of The Chicken Hut, Durham’s oldest Black-owned restaurant. “It takes the community to keep all of these small businesses going.” “What is sad to me is that chains are going to do fine,” Eleanor of Big Belly Que laments. “I hope that customers really support the unique food businesses that we have here, because we don’t have the 59
The Food and Drink Issue