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Twist on takeout injects life into Vida Taco Bar in Severna Park

The Spanish word vida means life and, if nothing else, the line forming in front of Vida Taco Bar Friday afternoon was life-affirming.

The moment the glass-paned garage door on the Severna Park restaurant’s indoor/outdoor patio swung open at 4 p.m., people emerged from their cars to cue in place on chalked squares drawn 6 feet apart. The taco bar had transformed into an innovative open-air mini-mart and takeout window with employee volunteers Sommer Dawson and Colleen Fox serving customers.

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Among the first patrons to arrive were Dawn Lupo and Melissa Handy. A glance at a chalkboard beverage menu on the sidewalk told them margaritas, sangria, and Vida’s famous purple drink were available while a table placed where the line began contained lists of menu items and staples offered. Included were small amounts of fresh meats, produce, pasta, bread, eggs and even paper products.

Next in line, Shareese Churchill and her young daughters Avery and Isabella waited patiently. Churchill works in the State House as Gov. Larry Hogan’s press secretary and makes it a practice to stop at Vida Taco Bar in Annapolis every Friday after work for a margarita.

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“Unfortunately, the Annapolis’ Vida is closed, but I’m not about to miss my Friday tradition.” the Pasadena resident said. “So I’m here with the girls to order my drink and takeout for our family. That ‘purple drink’ listed on the sign sounds good.”

Clad in his familiar apron and baseball cap, Vida Taco Executive Chef Josh Brown stepped outside to briefly scan the line. Brown and Vida’s owners John Miller and Andrew Fox came up with their twist on takeout as a way to help their customers. He described the evolution of their plan.

“After learning we’d have to close the restaurant, John Miller and I were packaging meats for care packages for our employees,” he said. “We felt it was the least we could do and were upset we wouldn’t be serving meals to our patrons.”

Meantime, Brown’s wife called requesting he stop at the supermarket on his way home. Arriving at the store, he found to his horror that the shelves were practically bare. He was able to buy just one percent of what he came for.

“I immediately went home and called John and Andrew and asked if there was any way we could provide some essentials for our customers and neighbors,” he said.

Miller and Fox agreed with their chef and looked for a way to do it. Because the Severna Park restaurant’s spacious kitchen is a food prep hub for all three Vida locations, they were still receiving products from their purveyors – products they could offer customers safely through a patio window.

They determined to open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays from 4 pm till 8 pm. Brown would post an outdoor list of available mini-mart products where customers could read it while maintaining social distancing. They’d also provide a small takeout menu.

It’s one of a number of area businesses that are offering similar services, including restaurants such as The Grill at Quarterfield Station, Sunset Restaurant and Timbuktu Restaurant.

To ensure proper distancing they’d chalk squares on the parking lot six feet apart. Patrons could view Brown’s lists, write out what they wanted and pass their orders through the window to the employees working the counter. Inside, other employees would fill customers’ orders. The window would also provide a place for people placing online orders to pick up their food.

The plan worked well and Vida Taco Bar received a lot of attention. According to Brown, Severna Park customers are being incredibly supportive. Those coming to pick up online orders

generally spot the list of essentials and buy one or two extra items. Those who come to buy grocery items naturally tend to order a margarita and, while at it, pick up tacos for dinner.

As Lupo and Handy reached the window to place their order, Severna Park residents Jeff and Joy Sim picked up the online order they’d placed earlier. They were happily toting paper bags packed with containers of guacamole, beans, four different kinds of tacos, and “of course, margaritas”.

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Further back in line, Severna Park residents Deborah and Megan Rossi noted they’d been to Starbucks and elsewhere in search of an end of the week treat.

“Then we remembered we’d seen Vida Taco Bar touted on the television news,” Deborah said. “So we drove over and are pleased we did.”

Fox, Miller and Brown are humbled by Severna Park families’ generous response. Business has been so good they’ve opened a similar min-mart at Vida Taco Bar’s Harbor Point location in Baltimore.

To place an order, call Vida Severna Park at (410) 544-2300, order online at https://www.vidatacobar.com/online-ordering/ or check them out on Facebook.

Neighborhood updates

Most fast-food establishments, sub, sandwich and pizza shops and numerous restaurants are open for online takeout.

Several deliver. Clement Hardware, Ace Hardware, and local pharmacies remain open. SPAN Inc. and Asbury Church Assistance Network Asbury Church Assistance Network continue food pantry operations.

Email your Severna Park news to Sharon Lee Tegler at wingsorb@aol.com. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook @SharonLeeSays.

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