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The restaurant industry is hurting, but there are ways you can help

“If you love a place, buy a gift card”

PORTLAND, Maine — Last week a restaurant called Leeward opened on Free Street in Portland, and it caught my eye because I walk by it on the way to work. It’s an attractive place with big windows and lots of light, an Italian menu that features house-made pasta, and owners who came to Maine from the west coast. Leeward opened its doors Thursday afternoon and it’s now closed for business for who knows how long. It lasted three days.

For the hospitality industry in Maine and around the world, the coronavirus has been a hurricane that roared in out of a clear blue sky. Briana and Andrew Volk own a successful bar, Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, which did good business on Saturday night. The next day, they made the decision to shut it down for two weeks. “If you had told us last week that we’d even be considering closing come Sunday,” Briana says, “I wouldn’t have believed it.”

No one knows how long the hard times will last for the hospitality industry. What is clear is that the pain runs deep. For a lot of these businesses, not one customer is walking through the door right now. Revenues have vanished. When the next paycheck will appear is anyone’s guess.

So what can the rest of us do to help out our favorite restaurants? Briana offered some suggestions. “If you love a place, buy a gift card from them,” she says. “If they’re just doing takeout, go get takeout from them. Go get delivery from these places…If you don’t want to buy a gift card, lots of places have t-shirts and books and other things they offer. Just being able to support them in any way is great.”

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