Remember the early days of COVID when we thought things might be back to normal by Easter? Then we hoped for the Fourth of July and then it became obvious we would be stuck in this mess for a long time.
And now we are starting a holiday season that will be void of parties, parades, concerts and most other festivities. When it comes to friends and family, many of us will have to settle for celebrating on Zoom. And let’s be honest. Zoom is a lousy substitute for getting together in person.
As terrible as COVID has been for all of us, it has hit some much harder than others in terms of the financial damage. According to the National Restaurant Association, one in six US restaurants have shut down permanently since COVID started – more than 100,000 restaurants and 2 million jobs are gone.
Here in Boulder, we have lost some of our most iconic eateries. The latest casualty is Zolo, which is shuttering this month after 26 years. One of my all-time favorite meals is their chicken enchiladas paired with a coin margarita. That was a perfect combo and I will think about it with a smile every time I drive through the Village.
Of course, things are not any better for small retailers. Sales tax revenues downtown through the summer were off more than 60 percent year-to-date. Twenty Ninth Street was down 36 percent. The Paycheck Protection Program funds that kept many businesses viable during the spring and early summer are long gone and many small shops will be forced out in the coming months.
But you can help them survive. This year – more than ever – it is important to shop small and shop local for the holidays. Amazon will do just fine without your money this Christmas. Jeff Bezos will still celebrate the holidays in comfort. But the local merchants on Pearl Street and throughout Boulder desperately need your support.
There will be no Lights of December Parade and Santa will not be visiting the Mall this year, but downtown will still be lit up as beautifully as ever. The stores will be open and restaurants will be offering takeout and gift cards to use when they can welcome you safely back.
For those who are nervous about going out, many local shops have improved their websites and now offer true online shopping convenience. The Downtown Boulder Partnership is assembling an assortment of gift boxes with handpicked items from small shops downtown. They package it all up and ship the boxes or you can pick them up. Visit boulderdowntown.com to see the options.
On the restaurant side, you can buy gift cards to put under the tree and order takeout or delivery for your holiday meals. And with the nice weather we have had, you can still dine outside near a heater or under a tent at many local restaurants.
If you like the convenience of delivery, Boulder is using funds from a federal grant to pay the delivery fees for meals ordered through Nosh Boulder at Boulder.noshdelivery.co. This allows more of the money from each sale to stay with the restaurant.
So if you love Boulder and the amazing local shops and restaurants that have made it such a great place to live, make a commitment to support them this holiday season. They need you now more than ever. Happy holidays and stay safe!
Sean Maher is the CEO of RRC Associates in Boulder. Views expressed in this column are his own and do not reflect the position of RRC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org to blog