As the novel coronavirus has posed an array of challenges for restaurants around the world, many of them are in desperate need of financial relief. Chefs in Maine have helped to bring assistance to their community through the Maine Restaurant Relief Fund, which has generated over $140,000 and distributed grants to 19 restaurants in all 16 of Maine’s counties.
The fundraiser started in August of last year with weekly, hour-long live streams every Sunday. The show was called “Sunday Supper” and featured chefs from around the state giving out their favorite recipes and information about the relief fund.
As of late as year, the show brought in over 200 donors including big names like Hannaford Supermarkets and smaller, local businesses like Bangor Savings Bank.
"In the face of a new round of COVID challenges, our Maine restaurant owners are doing everything they can to be safe, serve customers and make it through the winter," said Rory Strunk in a Maine Biz article. Strunk is the founder of O'Maine Media, the company that produces the Sunday Supper series. "I am amazed at the generosity of individuals and corporations in Maine."
Strunk emphasized that more help is still needed in order to continue supporting Maine restaurants.
The Maine Restaurant Relief Fund provides $5,000 grants to restaurants through the Hospitality Maine Education Fund. The plan was to distribute 100 grants to Maine restaurants that have been impacted by COVID-19 and statewide restrictions on indoor dining and do so by the end of last year.
"It has been a life raft for recipients," Strunk said.
For example, Bath Brewing Co. was able to keep paying their employees and increase the amount of outdoor seating they are able to offer.
Mike Therriault, co-owner of Bath Brewing Co. said, "It's fantastic. What a great way to show support and help us through these tough times."
Harding Lee Smith is a restaurant owner and chef who appeared on “Sunday Supper” in November said that he’s used the time during shutdown as an opportunity to complete some renovations in his three restaurants, collectively known as the Rooms. He is concerned for other restaurants in his community now that the temperature is down and the COVID cases are up.
"What’s going to happen in January and February?” he said.“That's the scariest part and why this money is so necessary for people because we don’t know what is going to be like."
"Sunday Supper" ran through the end of December and, although they did not meet their goal of distributing 100 $5,000 grants, their efforts were commendable and quite possibly saved 19 local restaurants from shutting down! The future is still uncertain for restaurants in Maine and throughout the United States, but one thing is for sure: when the community comes together to support each other amazing things can happen.