25 Feb Black-owned Restaurants in the South Deal with the Aftermath of Winter Storm Uri
By Victoria Graham
Black-owned businesses, especially Black-owned restaurants, have long understood that only the strong survive. 2020 put that philosophy into focus as COVID-19 brought unprecedented changes to the business and cultural landscape, causing large-scale devastation and scrappy innovation across the restaurant industry. Now, after almost a year of adapting to a pandemic, a week of below-freezing temperatures and a once-in-a-lifetime winter storm has Black-owned restaurants in Texas gearing up for yet another fight for survival.
Winter Storm Uri arrived in Texas on Sunday, February 14, bringing record-low frigid temperatures. But the cold weather would prove to be only one piece of the disaster. As the days unfolded, the state’s Energy Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT, ordered regional energy utility companies to implement “rolling blackouts” to preserve the Texas power grid. The rolling blackouts, meant to last only a couple of hours, would last for days in many parts of the state.
The blackouts caused thousands of restaurants across Texas to close without notice. When power stabilized, many restaurant owners arrived at their businesses to find significant property damage: busted pipes, extensive water damage, flooded rooms, caved ceilings and spoiled inventory from days of no electricity or water.
Restaurants are notorious for operating with thin margins. Over 60% of all restaurants fail within the first year, and 80% fail within five years. In an industry with little to no room for error, Winter Storm Uri provided the latest obstacle in a year-long battle for survival. Many Black-owned restaurants struggling to survive during a pandemic are now searching for ways to restore their businesses in the aftermath of Uri that left thousands of dollars in damages and repair costs.
To understand how devastating Uri was for many Texas Black-owned restaurants, one has to consider how vital Black-owned restaurants are to the ecosystem of many Black communities. For one, they are proud small businesses providing jobs and opportunities. These establishments help circulate dollars within Black communities while often serving as trusted places to gather and disseminate information. Social media accounts for popular Black-owned restaurants can have more followers than news organizations. They can move swiftly to update the masses about issues plaguing their communities.
In Houston, the Turkey Leg Hut organized a Trail Ride Fundraiser and served as a water distribution site. The Breakfast Klub provided thousands of free meals over the weekend, as thousands of Houstonians were still without adequate water. Lucille’s owner, Chef Chris Williams, mobilized his own family after the storm hit and prepared hundreds of meals to those in need at Temenos, an assisted living facility for the homeless and/or displaced.
In Dallas, over 50K members of a private Facebook group for Black Restaurants quickly mobilized. The group shared open restaurants, ways to support restaurant owners and general information about the storm. TLC Vegan Kitchen has prepared over 100 plant-based meals to those in need in the South Dallas area. They plan to continue serving the community this week. And through donations from the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que and Home Cooking was able to provide 800 meals to West Dallas Community Centers last weekend.
In Austin, the Black Leaders Collective partnered with several Black-owned restaurants to provide free hot meals to the community. The partnering restaurants included Emojis Grilled Cheese Bar, The Avenue Southern Cuisine & Bar, The Gossip Shack and The Rolling Rooster — all offering free meals last Saturday and Sunday.
Content creators, food bloggers, athletes and influencers were also vital in spreading accurate and timely information during the storm. It will take a collective effort to ensure Black businesses and restaurants survive.
Black-owned restaurants are Black culture. Often located in food deserts, Black Restaurants are a lifeline for their communities. They are a critical piece of the Black experience. We must work with them to weather the aftermath of this storm.
Feed the Soul Foundation created the Restaurant Relief Assistance Fund to assist Black and Latin owned restaurants affected by Winter Storm Uri. The fund will support restaurants that experienced property damage, loss of food and/or inventory, or loss of revenue supporting employee salaries.
Click here to donate to the fund.
If you are a qualifying restaurant in need of aid, apply here now.
Donate to the Restaurant Relief Assistance Fund: https://feedthesoulfou.org/