Updated: May 5, 2021
Many people are STILL being impacted by COVID-19...even though we are now in 2021.
The impacts of COVID can be seen in our daily existence, it effects our health, both physical and mental, finances, business, and education.
Difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, trouble concentrating, lack of motivation, feelings of anger, decrease in your normal interests...does this sound like you or someone you may know? I'm here to tell you those are all normal feelings. If you suffer from anxiety like me, then you know that having definitive due dates and end goals is ideal. With COVID we are in a place where there's virtually no end date. That's a hard pill to swallow, but this is our new normal. Don't let the changes happening in our world break you down though, instead accept and embrace the changes. If you are in a location that still has lockdown restrictions, use this time to get your home in order, start a virtual meet up on social media, zoom, take time to relax, start a new hobby, etc.
If you are having an even harder time and need someone to talk to, reach out to a therapist or utilize one of the hotlines found on my resources page.
In the beginning of the pandemic, pretty much the entire population was on lockdown. As a result, many started crafting, brainstorming, creating, cooking, and exploring all kinds of hidden talents. Many of them turned those crafts, ideas, and talents into businesses. It's been very exciting to see the businesses that have started and thrived in this virtual space. We must continue to support these businesses as well as our local businesses.
Our responsibility to local businesses.
For brick and mortar businesses it's been difficult to stay afloat during this entire pandemic. with stay home orders placed in effect, and limited occupancy, it's been a challenge to bring in revenue, remain staffed, ad even stay open. I have seen many local and mainstream business close their door for good during this time. As consumers, we have a personal responsibility to these businesses to make sure they stay open; our economy depends on it.
Local businesses, particularly food businesses, are feeling impacts from not only the ongoing pandemic, but the restrictions as a result of it, passed down from local government. Specifically in my city, Baltimore, Maryland, the local government from day one of the pandemic, has not fully known how to minimize COVID cases, while keeping the economy afloat at the same time.
I decided to interview two local restaurants to see the impact of both COVID and the local government decisions on their businesses.
Co-Owner Paul Thomas of The Civil and Co-Owner Durian Neal (Chef DJ) of Loving Spoon Collective and Good Neighbor, were both gracious enough, to set aside time in the middle of reopening since the second shutdown in December 2020, to give me insight into what it's been like running a business during this COVID pandemic.
-Take me back to 10 months ago March 2020... what were your immediate thoughts when the shutdown happened ?
March ‘20 was tough, the unexpected happened. The concept of Good Neighbor is to combine homewares, great coffee, and dope food together Everything in the café is crafted locally, the coffee, the cup, the plate, the chair, and they're all available for purchase. Therefore, we had to switch our game plan and fast.
-What was impacted the most from the start of the shutdown? Our staff. During that entire time they would constantly ask to come in to work or if there were hours available. And I would have to tell them there's no need. We were not bringing in enough revenue to be able to pay rent, utilities, and payroll.
-How helpful were carry out and delivery orders?
Carry out saved our A**. I knew from opening previous restaurants that delivery could be fickle for a new business and talked it through with Shawn and Anne Chopra (co-owners) and decided to hold off; the unsung hero is online ordering and picks ups.
No, our restaurant is not set up for carry-out and delivery. So it did not benefit us at all. We did not create The Civil to be a carry-out or delivery type of restaurant.
So the reopen happens in May/June, what were some things your restaurant had to do in order to be ready for that reopen?
Training, only about 25% of the staff came back. We added a few menu items to attract more customers, and those items have helped to drive business.
With orders coming from both state and city authorities how has that been navigating to abide to both?
They're never on the same page. It seems like the last ones to get the info are the law enforcement officers that are called in by local residents. They can be very intimidating in these instances, but we just try our best to be as accommodating and apologetic as possible.
So then December comes and our new mayor orders all restaurants back to carry out and delivery. How did that impact your business? We set protocols in place that have kept not only us but our guest safe this entire quarantine. We set a standard in place which helped our presence both socially and economically.
Just two weeks ago the restrictions were extended but as of two days ago the mayor announces effective today they are now allowing 25% capacity. What does this mean for your restaurant and staff?
Many of our employees started working other jobs because of how long they were out of work. We've had to re-hire, hire new ones, retrain and train employees on safety protocols.
What do you expect for the future? We have decided not to allow indoor dining until our staff, all of them, feel comfortable having guest dine in without a mask. Our expectations are still in the clouds. We must have faith in the notion that some day soon this will all be over, back to normal so to speak and hopefully not replaced with a new one.
Hopefully we can continue to build up the staff, give great customer service, speed up our food prep times and cook times. We are striving to continue to give people an experience they want to come back to. We want you to leave if anything, satisfied.
-How can Baltimore and even surrounding areas make sure your restaurant continues to prosper? In terms of the government and officials, some type of relief; maybe a utility or rent forgiveness. Shutting down everything simultaneously, have everyone quarantine, so that we can stop the spread completely. Like how we were in the beginning.
-Paul -What message would you like to give to all readers and listeners of this show and your supporters?
I mentioned the word connection earlier it is an important word. Without it so many wouldn’t have been made aware of the unjust situation George Floyd suffered. We all watched we all disapproved and what I saw was a nation unified even if it was for just a moment. I believe using GN as a platform for union bringing neighbors from all walks together that way we not only prosper as a business but as a community a city and so forth. The message is as clear as ever think before you act, stay safe, and be a Good Neighbor. Peace.
Support your restaurants as much as you can. Go eat in. Order up. Tip your bartenders and servers. Order carry out, etc. But definitely go eat in since they are back open.
Be sure to head to IGtv where I'll be sharing some ways to cope with the ongoing pandemic and shedding light on the continuous impact of COVID on local life and businesses.
In the meantime, stay safe & stay sane!
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