After Celeste Shaw made the difficult decision to temporarily close her two Spokane restaurants, Chaps and Paper & Cup, rather than offer carry-out until the ban on dine-in service is lifted, she knew she had to do something to help the region's hard-hit hospitality industry.
An old side project selling T-shirts and chef's aprons with the phrase "Food is Love" on Chaps' website (chapsgirl.com) was the answer.
Shaw chose to donate the proceeds to local nonprofit Big Table, which is working to provide emergency financial aid to many of the thousands of local restaurant and bar workers who lost their jobs overnight due to the coronavirus pandemic. Then leadership at Washington Trust Bank stepped in and donated $2,500 to cover the purchase and screenprinting of the apparel.
The baseball-style T-shirts flew off virtual shelves in a matter of days, Shaw says, and the total raised was still being tallied as of press deadline.
"Someone was asking about [the meaning of] 'food is love,' and it's not about the food itself, it's about serving," Shaw explains. "To me, to feed someone, it's not just feeding their belly but feeding their spirit, and to know there can be hope and that you're not standing alone."
While the donated batch of Food is Love shirts ($30) and aprons ($35) are nearly sold out, Shaw says she'll have more in the coming days, and plans to continue using proceeds to support her temporarily laid-off staff and others in the community.
"We all want to stay positive," Shaw reflects. "Everyone is becoming united in this struggle to support each other."
SPIRITS TO-GO RAISE SPIRITS
Last Tuesday the Washington State Liquor Control Board issued a temporary rules change allowing restaurants with licenses to serve spirits on-premises to also sell factory-sealed bottles of liquor to-go or for delivery — when purchased with a meal or food — while the statewide dine-in service ban remains in place. Previously, restaurants serving beer, wine and hard cider were allowed to sell sealed bottles or growlers to-go, but not spirits. The allowance lets all restaurants with a spirits/beer/wine license to sell these products to-go.
The Elk Public House quickly got creative with the new rule, putting together whiskey mule kits for $40 that came with a liter of whiskey, two four-packs of Cock & Bull ginger beer and two limes. The Browne's Addition restaurant is also selling kits for Italian sidecars and other classic cocktails; see the latest offerings on its Facebook page.
Similarly, Cochinito Taqueria is selling its house-made margarita mix ($12) with rim salt and instructions to make your own at home. There's enough to make up to eight drinks with each kit; customers can also get a liter of tequila for $20.
While unable to serve spirits to-go due to the nature of its license, bar staff at Bon Bon are providing a unique service in exchange for tips. Message Bon Bon's Facebook page with a list of spirits and mixers you have at home, and one of its bartenders will reply with at least five recipes for drinks you can concoct yourself. Staffers are accepting and splitting tips via Venmo. The bar is also taking its weekly trivia night online via Facebook Live. Hop online Mondays at 7 pm and play for fun; all teams get entered into a drawing for a gift card to use when the bar reopens.
EAT OUT AT HOME
The Inlander continues to update a spreadsheet on local restaurants offering take-out and delivery service until their dining rooms can reopen to the public. While some restaurants previously offering this option have since decided to close temporarily, we're still adding to the database each day. When you're tired of cooking at home, looking to support local businesses hit hard by pandemic or craving [fill in the blank], head to Inlander.com/takeoutguide.
While dozens of area restaurants made the to-go-only switch, others have bowed out and are leaving the lights off for what many expect could be an extended period of downtime for the industry. A trio of Spokane-area restaurants — Downriver Grill, The Flying Goat and Republic Pi — made that decision last week.
Downriver Grill co-owner Juli Norris says the decision to cease offering carry-out was largely made in response to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-at-home order issued March 23. She says the restaurant group is taking things day by day, however, and could reopen for take-out ordering.
"We felt like it would be a good opportunity to close for a little while and reassess the situation," Norris says. "It's safer and healthier to support our community and our staff. It was more of a conscious decision than money."
The three restaurants were staying fairly busy even without dine-in customers, she adds. At Downriver Grill, for example, some of its regular customers placed daily take-out orders. Both pizza restaurants remained busy until temporarily closing late last week.
Norris says customers can still purchase gift cards online, and should watch social media for announcements on future plans.
CREATIVE CUSTOMER SERVICE
Amidst the chaos of this strange new era, restaurants that can't reach customers as they normally would are getting creative with their marketing tactics. Take, for example, The Swinging Doors' offer to add up to two rolls of highly coveted toilet paper for $1.50 each to any take-out order. While some accused the restaurant of price gouging, the business responded on Facebook that it was simply trying to keep employees working and thus able to feed their families. The restaurant is also offering a BOGO promo for select menu items when placed through Uber Eats.
Miranda Hamilton, a local broker with Insurance Northwest in Coeur d'Alene, recently took to social media to share a restaurant bingo board featuring 25 North Idaho food businesses. To play, diners need to connect five businesses in a row by sharing a photo of themself curbside at each restaurant with the hashtag #SupportCarryOutCDA. Each bingo enters participants into a raffle for local gift cards, and the first to reach a full board blackout gets a $50 restaurant gift card. The board includes spots like Cosmic Cowboy, Capone's, the Mango Tree, Vine & Olive, Moon Time and many more. Find it at Facebook.com/MirandaHamiltonYourLocalAdvisor. ♦