As a long time restaurateur in Tallahassee, my heart is heavy. Many people don’t understand the passion for service, the excitement to create, that we as restaurant operators see and live.
To open our doors each day with the expectation that something extraordinary could manifest itself within our walls. The perfect dish, with the most amazing layers of flavors — matched with a wine so fantastic you never want the glass to go empty.
To have guests visit what, in many cases, is an extension of our homes, smiling as they depart, with promises to return as often as possible — that is why we do it.
We’ve all heard, “You must be crazy to want to own a restaurant” and “How do you handle the hours?” Yes, we are crazy, because it is what inspires us and makes us early to open on the morning after a 16-hour shift.
Breakfast at a diner, lunch at a quaint cafe, the perfect pizza, Happy Hour and apps at our favorite dive bar, or the five-star experience — they all matter.
The endless Mom and Pop establishments committed to simplicity that we all frequent because we are hungry for family food. They are the soldiers of our industry and we need them to continue to do battle.
The vendors that supply us, the farmers growing fresh ingredients, the fisherman bringing us our daily catch, the wine makers — all make our execution possible and we are in this together. Most importantly, our chefs, bartenders and service staff count on us to find a way to stay open in order to feed their families.
I have a hole in my heart for everyone in the industry who is suffering beyond imagination. I share that feeling of panic. To see the destruction of the dreams and everyday existence of businessmen and women everywhere due to circumstances beyond their control.
Although I am currently on the sidelines, I was anxiously awaiting the opportunity to re-enter the market. I feel as though I’m standing in front of my restaurant on opening night, watching it burn to the ground.
I know in my heart I would always rebuild. We as a community must hold on to the craziness and passion to make it work again when the time comes.
Think of all the amazing times sitting around a table breaking bread or having cocktails and conversation with family, friends and loved ones. Those days always find their way back.
I know all the owners will fight to survive. I believe in the underdog and in impossible comeback stories. We will get past these challenging times.
This is my shout-out to all the places fighting the fight. I applaud your tenacity and dedication to your craft — and the demonstration of pure heart. My prayers are with everyone in our celebrated industry.
Chris Clark was previously with Avenue Eat and Drink, and has been a restaurateur since 1991.
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