Off Topic column head Brenda Anderson

COLUMN: Time to pick up the slack and deliver for local restaurants

If we want our favourite haunts to be around when this is over, we must support them now

I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately (big surprise, I know).

More specifically, I often find myself reflecting – while basking in the glow of the microwave oven, as yesterday’s leftovers go round and round – just how much of my social life has revolved around meals enjoyed in restaurants.

For the last 15 years or so, for example, I’ve had a standing date with a friend to meet every month or two to have dinner, solve all the world’s problems, and then catch a flick.

Of the dozens of movies we’ve seen together, some have been gut-busters and others just a bust. But the meals and conversations have almost always been top-notch. So much so, that we’ve been known on occasion to ditch the movie, order dessert and keep on gabbing.

A more recent tradition that began developing a little over a year ago now, was a monthly date with two other friends. We’d meet someplace new for Sunday brunch then go for a pedicure.

Like most things, this all came to a sudden and unceremonious halt.

Of all the things I’ve missed since going to ground in March 2020, eating a professionally-prepared meal while enjoying the company of friends is high atop the list. Knowing there isn’t a pile of dirty dishes waiting for me in the next room makes the experience that much sweeter.

Of course, food is only one part of the overall experience of dining out.

The prospect of getting together for drinks with a group of friends and catching up after more than a year apart is largely what’s getting me through this latest – admittedly tough – stretch, as infections climb and restrictions tighten.

It’s been a frustrating 14 months and I know I can’t be the only one going into restaurant withdrawal.

Which is why I think that once enough of us have vaccine in our systems to safely come out of hiding, there won’t be a table to be had for miles on a Friday night.

For many businesses, though, the challenge will be to hang on until that day comes.

Right now, with inside dining once again suspended, they need as much help as they can get – both from government and the rest of us. A grant program put in place as part of the province’s ‘circuit breaker’ which cancelled indoor dining until at least May 25, offers grants of up to $20,000 to affected businesses. And that’s great.

For some, however, the help comes too late. The owner of the Round Up Café in Whalley said its closure after 60 years in business is “100 per cent” a result of COVID-19. Meanwhile, like many other fledgling businesses, the brand new Delight Indian Bistro, which opened last June, isn’t eligible for federal wage-subsidy programs.

Presumably owner Aayush Arora can take advantage of the provincial money. But like most of the Peninsula’s restaurateurs, I’m sure he would rather make ends meet by feeding customers than have to depend on government grants to stay afloat.

That result will only come if we support our regular haunts, or maybe drive around town and see who else is out there and would benefit from our patronage.

Seriously, what else have we got to do these days?

Picking up take-out or ordering delivery may not offer quite the degree of social interaction we’re pining for.

But if we want our favourite eatery – or that one we’ve always been meaning to try – to be around when we can once again slide into a corner booth and enjoy an hours-long chin wag with old friends, we’ve got to support them now.

And, no doubt, there will be plenty to catch up on after all this time apart, so when we do get to that point once more, let’s all stick around and order dessert.

Brenda Anderson is editor of the Peace Arch News.

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