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Marin County ‘restaurant appreciation’ campaign seeks to ease coronavirus pandemic impact

Marin County’s business community has pulled together to support its restaurants.

“We are all aware of the impact COVID-19 has had on all our favorite restaurants, so the Marin Council of Chambers along with the Marin Convention and Visitors Bureau has partnered together to promote (its restaurants),” said Julie Kritzberger, executive director for the Corte Madera Chamber of Commerce. “We encourage residents to keep dining at their favorite restaurants while also trying someplace new. Your business and support will make a difference to our restaurant community.”

“Marin County Cares ~ Restaurant Appreciation” runs from Oct. 22 through Dec. 31 with restaurants looking to lure customers back by showcasing special offers.

There are no tickets or passes required, and most of the restaurants are extending their promotions on a first come, first served basis. Customers must mention “Marin County Cares” to claim the offer, Kritzberger said.

“The ultimate goal is to push much-needed business into local restaurants, whether it is for take-out, outdoor dining and limited indoor dining, if available,” said Gina Marr-Hiemstra, vice president, Marin Convention & Visitors Bureau. “There is tremendous concern that many of the restaurants that we love will not be here in the long term, depending how long this pandemic lasts and how long the restaurants can hold on.”

Last week, California advanced Marin County from the red tier to the orange tier because of lowered transmission of the coronavirus, allowing restaurants to expand indoor-dining capacity to 50% from 25%. Orange is the second-least-restrictive tier of the state’s four-level reopening plan, launched at the end of August.

But the move to the orange tier isn’t expected to impact the county’s restaurants a whole lot, Marr-Hiemstra noted.

“I can say that although Marin County is shifting down to (the orange tier), many restaurants just started offering take-out, and maybe doing a few tables outdoors,” she said. “Bigger restaurants that can do some indoor tables have done that, but just as many have chosen not to do indoor, because of the protocols required, staffing, and preferred business demand is still for take-out and outdoor dining.”

Joanne Webster, president and CEO of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce and co-chairwoman of the Marin Council of Chambers, said downtown San Rafael is one area where restaurants might see more immediate benefit from being in the orange tier.

“Nonessential offices can open, so it now creates a little bit more vitality in the downtown areas,” Webster said. “When you have the nonessential offices completely shut down, there's no business lunch, there's no meeting after work, there's no connection and there's no catering happening.”

Restaurants being allowed to operate indoors at 50% capacity is helpful, she said, but the bigger payoff awaits.

“We really need to boost consumer confidence and assure them that it's safe and it's OK for them to dine indoors,” Webster said. “I feel strongly about that. Again, it’s communicating to our local residents how important it is to be supporting these businesses through the holiday season.”

Participating chambers in the campaign also include Fairfax, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo, Sausalito, Tiburon, West Marin and the Hispanic Chamber.

Cheryl Sarfaty covers tourism, hospitality, health care and education. She previously worked for a Gannett daily newspaper in New Jersey and NJBIZ, the state’s business journal. Cheryl has freelanced for business journals in Sacramento, Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Northridge. Reach her at cheryl.sarfaty@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4259.

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