With each day bringing a new wave of news reports, statistics and stories on how coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc around the world, succumbing to the feelings of fear and anxiety being pumped out of the mass media feels inevitable.
The Spokane community has been at the forefront of the pandemic since its early days in the United States, with Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center being one of ten hospitals in the nation with the capabilities of treating highly infectious diseases.
Gonzaga University and the Spokane community have always been known to be a tight knit and supportive community. If anything, the coronavirus outbreak has exemplified that feeling of closeness.
Travis Dickinson, co-owner and executive chef of Cochinito Taqueria in downtown Spokane, is an example of one such business stepping up to help. The restaurant recently transitioned to take out and delivery after Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s mandate to restaurants to close down their in-house dining services.
This shift in restaurant operations, while necessary in order to halt the spread of the virus, led to massive income losses for restaurants across the nation. This mandate impacted hours of operation as well as number of necessary staff on hand. The liquor board also denied restaurants from selling alcohol for takeout, greatly impacting revenue for many restaurants.
“We hoped there would be some loosening of the rules,” Dickinson said. “To allow us to sell canned beer, growlers or anything else, but the liquor board has so far denied us.”
With such a drastic change to their daily lives, Dickinson and the team at Cochinito reflected on how they could make this difficult situation into a silver lining for those within the community in need. With both Dickinson and his business partner, Justin Curtis having children of their own, they understand the challenges that parents face with school closures.
“We know how much many families depend on school meals to provide food that is both free and does not require the time and energy of an already busy parent to prepare,” Dickinson said.
This mindset led them to implement a “kids eat free” special for lunches, provided an accompanying adult order a regular entree. Dickinson sees this as a way to support children and families, as well as show their appreciation for such a caring community.
While those in the industry are doing what they can to support others, it is not without immense sacrifice. Dickinson notes that although this community is a strong and resilient one, this pandemic will be the reason many businesses shut their doors and are not able to reopen. With this being said, Dickinson says the outpouring of help and camaraderie from small businesses has been touching.
“In every group chat and text thread I am in with other chefs and restaurant owners, it has been all about how we can help our staffs, our community and each other,” he said.
Remedy Kitchen and Tavern, a restaurant in downtown Spokane, has also made strides to help their neighbors by offering free lunches to children, with the purchase of one regular entree. Once staff members were notified that schools were shutting down, they immediately began contacting one another. By the following day, they began offering free lunches.
Bryan Toston works in the marketing department of Goodwin Group, which is the umbrella organization under which a handful of Spokane restaurants fall, including Remedy. He talked about Remedy’s decision to participate in a GoFundMe group to try and reach out and help as much of the community as possible.
“We recently launched a GoFundMe, ‘Help a Restaurant, Help a Hero,’” Toston said. “In the hopes to provide hours for some of our employees that we were forced to lay off during the shutdown, as well as give back to the medical staff helping our city through a crisis.”
This GoFundMe aims to provide 100 hot meals a day for ten consecutive days to medical personnel such as first responders, nurses and doctors.
Customers can support this GoFundMe by purchasing a meal for a hero, which also provides income for the staff that are unable to come into work.
Toston remarked on the incredible support and overwhelming kindness they, as well as so many other small businesses, have received from the Spokane community during this time.
“The community support has been staggering,” Toston said. “We cannot thank everyone enough for the support they have shown the restaurant community so far.”