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Tony Foreman: Don’t let this be the last winter for restaurants | READER COMMENTARY

The owner of Roland Park restaurant Johnny's warns asks patrons to support restaurants as they face a tough winter because of COVID-19.
The owner of Roland Park restaurant Johnny's warns asks patrons to support restaurants as they face a tough winter because of COVID-19. (Gene Sweeney Jr. / Baltimore Sun photo)

When I began working in a restaurant for the first time 40 years ago, it was a huge departure from what I knew from my school community or my family growing up. The staff was an incredibly diverse group of people — all ages, backgrounds and outlooks on the world. Commonalities, however, were overwhelming. We all needed the job and the income. We all knew we were there to be of service to others and we were all there to aid one another. We cooked for people and cleaned up after people and were happy to do it. We shared a “family” meal quickly before feeding others in a much fancier way, and I got to listen to all the stories about Copenhagen, the Korean War, the Mississippi Delta and West Baltimore. Everyone at the table made allowances for one another and needed that time with our “family.” This was my first real understanding of community. When things went poorly for someone on the team the rest of us were there.

In this horrible moment that is 2020 the next generation of these people in our community are at risk. My restaurant family is scared. It’s not bad enough that we serve maskless patrons in the safest environment, but one that still has obvious risks. Restaurateurs are also at existential risk. Winter’s cold winds have come to us and emptied our patios. Commensurate with the current COVID-19 case surge, many diners are refusing to dine indoors. How can they be faulted? We look around at the empty rooms and walk through the quiet kitchens and wonder if we can make it. Can we survive until spring? Can we make it until the vaccine comes? Can we make it until there is wide enough distribution of the vaccine to swing behaviors of consumers back? And if we do survive, how many years will it take to dig out of the hole created by this wretched time?

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My hope is that our community rallies to support the restaurants that they don’t want to lose, because many have been lost already and many more will not make it in these next six months. The solution is simple. Be a regular patron. Indoors, outdoors, takeout. The more you utilize our skills the more people you aid. The more you dine well the more you will have your favorite places to go back to after the pandemic. We have enjoyed hosting your birthdays, anniversaries, meetings, and your Tuesdays when you don’t want to cook, providing you comfort and restoration when the day has been lousy. We just want to continue to be of service to you, our community. We have to be here to do that.

Tony Foreman

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The writer is the founder and co-owner of Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group.

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