Last week, while you (not with yours) were gobbling down turkey, Nicole Marquis was trying to figure out the future of Philly’s restaurants, hers (Charlie was a sinner, Hip City Veg) and over 250 other chefs and restaurantrepeneurs in town (as the founder of the Save Philly Restaurants coalition) struck by the gloom and loss of a year of pandemic hassles with the disease and with the city.
When it comes to Nicole Marquis’ sit-down restaurants, Charlie was a sinner. and Bar Bombón, in Midtown Village and Rittenhouse Square respectively, she and her team are working on ways that outdoor diners (at least until January 2021, per the city’s mandate) can stay heated in the dining chill. So, along with literary hot cocktail menus, complimentary blankets and abundant outdoor heaters, this week she’ll add Hot-Seats seat warmers to the equation.
“I don’t usually like to put people in the hot seat. But this year anything goes,” said Marquis in an email. “With the streets closed to cars most nights, many guests find they actually prefer outdoor dining. Even in the cooler weather. Philly diners are a hearty crowd. They want ways to get out of their homes and support their favorite restaurants. So we’ve given them lots of options while keeping them comfortable and safe. Plus, she’s added hearty new menu items. Such as Sopa de Otoño at Bar Bombón, with sautéed chayote and a thyme-dill vegetable broth. And new Silken Tofu and Mushroom Ramen, and Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese with Tempeh Bacon at Charlie was a sinner.
As for Save Philly Restaurants, Marquis is painfully aware of the National Restaurant Association’s estimation that ”2/3 of restaurants think it’s unlikely they will be able to remain in business without additional financial relief.” And has been lobbying Philly’s City Council to get them to help local food makers and sellers. Fast.
It’s one month since Philadelphia’s restaurant industry sent a letter to elected city and state officials. And?
Along with showing up for a full Council Zoom meeting last week, she’s planning two additional conversations with the City and Pennsylvania state officials.
“It was an excellent turnout. Almost every council person in attendance. With 50 additional virtual seats for local restaurateurs to ask questions and hear my impact statement,” said Marquis.
“This pandemic affects the public and affects the businesses, and that it is a travesty that Philly restaurants are in this position again, eight months after the initial shutdown. That the city is shutting down the city’s restaurants again with its no indoor dining mandate. Right before the holidays. Right after many restaurateurs have spent copious amounts of money on covid-based renovation and other safety distance protocols. The Mayor’s decision, in effect, makes it so that he’s laying off tens of thousands of workers in the Philly restaurant sector right before the holidays. There is no other way for restaurants to survive. Unless we get relief.”
Along with monetary relief, Nicole Marquis believes that rent moratoriums/rent deferment – a 180-day freeze on evictions – is a must. “To do otherwise is unacceptable. To close an entire industry without relief until we get this pandemic under control is unthinkable.”
Removing new restrictions for outdoor dining (six people to four), as well as nailing down grants for weatherizing and helping restaurants retrofit their spaces with hospital-grade air purifiers and HVAC systems are a must too, as is, a seat at the table at the city level when such decisions about literal and figurative business health are being weighed in the balance.
“We know that a six-week shutdown is truly more like a six-month shutdown,” said Marquis.