The pandemic has hit the restaurant and bar industry hard.
But much-needed help comes this week when the canceled Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival pivots and makes a big push to support struggling restaurants, watering holes and other businesses.
The new initiative is called "EAT. DRINK. COWTOWN."
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The goal, organizers said, is to make lemonade out of the lemons of 2020.
“Which is really a focus to get people back into restaurants. A lot of independent restaurant tours, breweries and bars, in general, have obviously struggled over the last six months. So we decided to try to use the voice of the festival to help broadcast their offerings and what people can do, what they can expect when they go into these amazing restaurants that I’ve been suffering for so long," said Russell Kirkpatrick, festival co-founder and general manager at Reata Restaurant in Fort Worth.
EAT. DRINK. COWTOWN. runs Monday, Oct. 19 until Sunday Oct. 25.
About 40 restaurants are involved, with some are offering entire, chef-prepared meals to take home, either to-go or curbside. Others are doing special dine-in menu items that are only available this week.
Whether going out or staying in, Kirkpatrick said there's something for everyone.
"Our employees have worked tirelessly to welcome our guest back into tour doors. And we all want our guests to feel comfortable, so this is an opportunity wherever your comfort level is -- whether it’s to go curbside or dining in," he said.
Local musician Josh Weathers, local restaurant workers and musicians teamed up for a video to promote the event.
You can see a full list of participating businesses by clicking here.
Emily Knight, president and CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association, said these types of initiatives are incredibly important. Right now, TRA data shows Texas has lost about 15 percent of restaurants since the pandemic began in March.
With no additional stimulus money in sight so far, the TRA is expecting up to 30 percent of restaurants to close permanently in the state by the end of the year.
"So these are the types of initiatives that we are starting to see cities pull together, because restaurants are so important. And we don't see an end in sight. So unless we get behind restaurants and order out or dine in, your favorite restaurant won't be here in the next 6 months," said Knight.
The Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation raises money from the festival for scholarships for the next generation of restaurateurs.
But this year, the foundation has switched gears to put money toward an employee relief fund for those struggling to make ends meet throughout the pandemic. Click here for more information on how to apply or donate to the fund.
They've donated more than $100,000 to hourly workers like waitresses, line cooks and dishwashers to help cover bills during this difficult time.
"We've given up to $500 per person to use for any kind of bills at home that they’ve had in the last few months," said Kirkpatrick.
So far, the next Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival is planned for April 2021. For any new updates, click here.