By LINDA CHION KENNEY
With the slogan, “Eat, Drink and Support Local Business,” the South Hillsborough Restaurants public group on Facebook, launched by the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce, is keeping residents abreast of “special season” dining options during the coronavirus pandemic.
Posted news includes photos and videos detailing take-out, curbside pickup and delivery particulars, as well as menu specials and discounts. Updated as well is a list of restaurants still operating.
More than 85 restaurants were noted on that list within three days of the group’s March 19 creation by Tanya Doran, the chamber’s executive director, who at the time was in self-quarantine and working from home.
“We’re there for our members, but we’re also there for the community, and right now we have to be very community-minded because this virus is much bigger than ourselves,” said Doran, noting the group (which had 665 members as of Monday morning, March 23) is open to anyone interested, not just chamber members. “It’s time for us to pull together, get creative and support each other.”
Doran offered her comments on day seven of her 14-day self-quarantine, imposed after returning from a trip to Scotland and going through customs at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
“I was one of those people who for two- and a-half hours stood body-to-body and shoulder-to-shoulder with at least 1,000 people,” she said. “We call it our little adventure, and now we’re home and doing what we’re supposed to. It’s not my preference, to stay at home and work virtually, but I’m blessed to be able to do it. I was in a very high-risk situation, and it’s important to me that if I do get COVID-19, I don’t spread it.”
With mandated suspensions of dine-in services, restaurant owners are taking a hard hit in the determined fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Likewise, chambers of commerce, rooted in the belief that face-to-face networking builds relationships that support and grow businesses, are challenged as well, depending more now on email, phone, webinar and virtual events to get the job done. (Indeed, the chamber’s half-hour, “Special Edition: March Monthly Membership Meeting” was scheduled as a Facebook Live event, set to start March 24 at noon.)
Chamber officials promoted as well webinars with the South Florida District of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Florida Small Business Development Corporation (FBDC) to help small business owners navigate the economic recovery process from the effects of COVID-19, with information about bridge loans and the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan. (For more, visit: www.floridasbdc.org.)
Meanwhile, taking on a life of its own, South Hillsborough Restaurants features restaurants serving the Apollo Beach, Big Bend, Brandon, FishHawk, Gibsonton, Riverview, Ruskin, Sun City Center and Valrico communities.
“Our local businesses are asked constantly to give back to the community, with items to raffle or other gestures, and this is an opportunity for the community to give back to them because they need it right now,” Doran said. “In Florida, 99 percent of the businesses are small businesses. We have to keep these small businesses going because they employ folks, and they’re providing a valuable service.”
As for getting through the tough times ahead on a personal level, Doran said, it’s one step at a time.
“It’s scary to think this can be something that’s ongoing for months,” she said. “I’m not one who is enjoying being home in self-quarantine. But don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t get stressed. There’s a lot to be thankful for. We live in paradise, here in Florida. Even though the beaches are closed, we have beautiful weather. We have to be safe, and we have to follow CDC instructions for the prevention of this virus.”
For more, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/covid19. The comprehensive site includes tips for “How To Protect Yourself” and what to do “If You Think You Are Sick,” as well as the latest pandemic updates and resources for the community by category, including Travel, Businesses and Employers, Schools and Childcare, and Community and Faith-Based Organizations. You can also call them at 800-232-4636. Visit the chamber at www.riverviewchamber.com or call 813-234-5944.