Restaurant Week is coming to Arbutus, part of a new promotion sponsored by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the Greater Arbutus Business Association, a business advocacy group.
The promotion will run from Sunday, March 26, until Saturday, April 1.
Emily Moroney, assistant director of off campus student services at the university, said the week is designed to help connect students and staff to local establishments. She said she was inspired, in part, by Baltimore's restaurant week, which takes place in January.
As she was organizing a calendar of weekend events, she noticed a lull in programming in late March, after students return from spring break.
She hopes by giving students and staff an introduction to nearby restaurants, they will consider them in the future whether it's for a meal or to cater campus events.
"We always joke that our students go wherever the food is," she said. "This could be really fun and a fun way to engage."
Six restaurants and cafes — Ice Cream Cottage, Sorrento's of Arbutus, Oak Creek Cafe, Village Junction Bakery, Paul's Restaurant and Fish Head Cantina — are taking place in the promotion, providing special dishes or discounted menu items.
Some of the restaurants accept UMBC's Red Card — the university's debit-like identification card, as payment.
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At Fish Head Cantina, customers will get 20 percent off their purchases during Restaurant Week. Owner Scott Fisher hopes the discount entices people to participate. It's the same rate the restaurant uses when hosting fundraisers for community organizations, such as school PTAs or sports groups.
"It's the sweet spot," he said. "It makes sense for both sides."
Fisher, who with his wife have owned the restaurant since 2003, envisions downtown Arbutus as an area for the arts, music and food. In nearby Relay, Diageo is planning to open a Guinness brewery and tourist attraction that could attract as many as 300,000 visitors in its first year.
"I'm hoping this will be the start of something interesting and bring in other restaurateurs," he said.
Bettina Tebo, president of the Greater Arbutus Business Association, said the promotion will help businesses get name recognition within the college community. More than 13,000 students are enrolled this year.
"The first one's always the hardest one and the one you learn the most from," she said. "It's very encouraging that UMBC is interested in business development and the community as a whole in Arbutus."
Clem Kaikis, a manager at Paul's Restaurant, said he believes the promotion is an innovative concept to bring traffic to the neighborhood. Paul's is offering discounts on a variety of menu options, including entrees, sandwiches, subs and ice cream.
"When UMBC is out of session, the community, in general, contracts. When they're in session, it expands," he said. "It's a positive thing that can help every little small business grow."
The university is organizing a social media element to the event. Those who post photos to Instagram, a photo-sharing service, from restaurants with the hashtag, #ArbutusRestWeek, will be entered into a raffle for prizes.
Baltimore County's restaurant week, coordinated by the Baltimore County Office of Tourism and Promotion, the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce happens twice a year, in January and August, and features specials and fixed price meals.
Since 2011, the event has grown from about a dozen to nearly 70 restaurants, but Arbutus restaurants do not regularly take part in it, a spokeswoman for the county tourism department said, adding she did not know why.