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A new normal

San Antonio nonprofit expands favorite restaurant event during COVID-19

San Antonio nonprofit expands favorite restaurant event during COVID

Alamo Biscuit Co. San Antonio
Alamo Biscuit Co. is among the eateries participating in Restaurant Weeks. Courtesy photo

Since the onset of COVID-19, restaurants have been hit hard as the number of people dining out continues to drop. To help local businesses transition through these difficult times, nonprofit Culinaria announced the expansion of its popular Restaurant Weeks event.

As drive-thru, pickup, curbside, and delivery options continue to become a new facet of San Antonio life, Culinaria, a sort of Mother Hen of the local restaurant industry, is also pivoting. Last week, the nonprofit announced it is expanding Restaurant Weeks from August 1-30. Along with more dates, Restaurant Weeks now includes to-go options — previously unavailable as part of the deal.

The 68 participating restaurants are offering $20 lunch, $45 dinner, which includes three-course, prix-fixe menus for either dine-in or takeout. Additionally, most establishments are offering beer, wine and mixed drinks to take out as part of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s March 18 alcohol-to-go waiver that was originally scheduled to expire on May 1, but may continue indefinitely

Among the local restaurants taking part: Alamo Biscuit Co., Battalion, Biga on the Banks, Cookhouse, Fruteria, Liberty Bar, Ocho, and Restaurant Gwendolyn. Find a full list of restaurants here.

“All businesses are so excited to be open and serving the community again,” Suzanne Taranto-Etheredge, president and CEO of Culinaria, in a release.

As Texas has reported a surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past week, Taranto-Etheredge says guest safety and satisfaction will be an overriding priority. “All [restaurants] have implemented and are enforcing COVID-compliant procedures and protocols when it comes to sanitizing and service. As much attention is being given to each customer, couple, or family unit, reservations to each of the participating establishments are required.”

Over the past four months, restaurants have had to adapt to the needs of the dining community while also creating a safe environment in accordance to health guidelines. The changes have been drastic and some San Antonio eateries are struggling to survive. Add to that the fight brewing among establishments that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission have classified a bar who are now petitioning Abbott to redefine the word “restaurant” in his order so that businesses with full kitchens can stay open.

Icy Donnelly owns La Frite Belgian Bistro with her son, Miles. She said the second wave of COVID-related closures hit their Southtown eatery harder than the first. “The second uptick really made a difference. The [customer] numbers get worse every day,” she said during a July 7 phone interview.

Donnelly said they are even closing a little earlier these days. “Everybody’s just staying home.”

Though she is looking forward to Culinaria's Restaurant Weeks campaign next month, Donnelly says taking it day by day is all she and many other restaurant owners can do.

“Who knows what’s going to happen in this world,” she said. “One minute you have this. One minute you have that. Life is very fragile.”

Along with Restaurant Weeks, Culinaria has launched the HospitALLity House along with chef Jason Dady and an Emergency Relief Fund for hospitality workers. All donations received are 100 percent tax deductible. For those restaurant community members in need of financial assistance can find an application on Culinaria’s website.