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Our View: Eat-in or carryout, Carroll County Restaurant Week a perfect time to ‘help keep them going’ | COMMENTARY

It’s difficult to get accurate statistical information on the failure rate for restaurants. An Ohio State University study showed that 60% close within their first year. That seems awfully high and Forbes Magazine subsequently put the number closer to 20%.

At any rate, it’s not easy to make it as a restaurateur even in the best of times. And as we all know, 2020 has been far from the best of times.

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Just after spring had sprung and people were looking to get out of their houses to enjoy the tasty food and fun settings local establishments can provide, the coronavirus pandemic elbowed its way in, without a reservation, and soon every place was either shuttered or trying to figure out how to do carryout. Gradually, they were allowed to reopen, first setting up tables in parking lots and then bringing people inside with social distancing and limited capacity. Clearly, there are a number of would-be diners staying home out of a continuing fear of COVID-19.

All in all it’s been a pretty rough year for restaurants. Locally, owners are hoping this week can be different, can help make up for the past four months and can offer a glimmer of hope.

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Carroll County Restaurant Week, designed to encourage community members to discover and experience new restaurants, or make repeat visits to their favorite dining restaurants in the county, begins today, Aug. 9, and runs through Aug. 16.

Twenty-four restaurants in all corners of Carroll are participating. As always, they will offer various specials, like price fixed menus, while this year paying extra attention to diner safety. There will be social distancing, a focus on sanitizing, contactless pay in some cases and, out of deference to those worried about dining out amid the pandemic, many of the participating restaurants are making their menus available for carryout.

“This will be a very interesting year,” Carroll County Chamber of Commerce President Mike McMullin told us, noting they debated whether to even hold Restaurant Week in 2020. “Then we quickly decided there has never been a year where the local restaurants needed more support and could use more exposure than this year.”

That’s for sure.

“A lot of restaurants are doing things they’ve never done before to try and build business and get people interested in anything different,” Dan Feehan, general manager at E. W. Beck’s Pub in Sykesville told us. “Let’s face it, people still don’t want to cook a lot, they like to be able to have the luxury of not having to worry about the hassles of cooking as we slowly get back to the normalcy of a schedule.”

Kristy Harrison, a longtime bartender and server at Rafael’s Restaurant in Westminster, told us she hopes Restaurant Week will encourage people to dine at their favorite establishments again.

Restaurant Week takes place in August because it is generally a slow time for the local restaurant business, considering the amount of people who take vacations during the month. McMullin said an increase in business during Restaurant Week would be beneficial in keeping these establishments afloat.

“It’s important for the restaurants, and I think it’s important to us who are local,” McMullin told us. “If there are restaurants we really like, if we want these places to be open when things really do fully open up again and everybody’s more comfortable going out to eat inside a restaurant, we need to go out there and spend some money there. We need to buy food from them to help keep them going because restaurants really kind of become almost the heart and soul of a town.”

Go to carrollcountychamber.org/restaurant-week for an updated list of participating restaurants and then consider patronizing one or more of them this week, in whatever manner you feel comfortable.

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