Black-owned restaurants participated in promotions and special deals for Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) Black Restaurant Week.
Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) declared Nov. 7 to 14 as the 2021 DMV Black Restaurant Week, a promotion to encourage customers to support Black-owned restaurants in the DMV area. Over 80 restaurants with Black owners took part in the event, offering dine-in, takeout and delivery promotions, as well as special menu items, throughout the week. According to a Nov. 7 press statement from Bowser, the promotional week is designed to advertise and support the many Black-owned businesses in the area.
Jennifer Meltzer, managing partner at one of the participating restaurants, All Set Restaurant & Bar in Silver Spring, Md., noticed an increase in business throughout the week because customers wanted to come for their special promotional menu.
“We definitely got people saying, ‘We knew you were participating in Black Restaurant Week, and we came for your Black Restaurant Week menu,’” Meltzer said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “Any time our elected public officials back community events, it’s going to get more awareness, so I think that’s awesome.”
DMV Black Restaurant Week started in 2018 after Black business owners and entrepreneurs were racially profiled and unjustly taxed, and it is now the only Black restaurant week officially endorsed by Bowser.
According to Chelsea Xeron, owner of Niko’s Spiked Gelato in the District, supporting local Black-owned businesses is especially important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought difficulties for many businesses.
“I think initiatives like this are extremely important, especially now during the pandemic,” Xeron said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “I think businesses, not only Black-owned but all small businesses, need help and support, and they need support from the communities.”
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the temporary or permanent closure of more than 43% of businesses in the District, and revenue at small business decreased by over 61% from March 2020 to March 2021.
According to Meltzer, by declaring one week DMV Black Restaurant Week, Bowser allows businesses to focus their promotional efforts within a specific time frame.
“I think concentrated efforts on well thought out promotions are better,” Meltzer said. “I think quality over quantity, but I certainly do think there’s a place for these kinds of promotions.”
During DMV Black Restaurant Week, Bowser announced that $9 million in grants through the Food Access Fund were available to help expand food options, eliminate food deserts and increase employment opportunities in Wards 7 and 8, where food insecurity is a problem for many low-income individuals.
The grants will help to ensure that everyone in the District has access to reliable food sources, as well as provide the opportunity for business owners to start new restaurants and businesses, according to Bowser in a Nov. 8 press statement.
“We have an incredible amount of entrepreneurial talent and creativity in DC, especially in our restaurant and foodservice industries — it’s just not equally distributed or equally funded,” Bowser said in the press statement. “The Food Access Grants are going to change that.”
Bowser’s endorsement of DMV Black Restaurant Week helps to change the false stereotypes surrounding Black-owned restaurants and prove that they are successful and valuable to District residents, according to Xeron.
“I think that people tend to see Black-owned businesses and Black-owned restaurants as kind of subpar and say, ‘Oh, they might need some help,’” Xeron said. “But to have the mayor behind it and to legitimize the movement makes it that much better.”
While DMV Black Restaurant Week was a success, customers should not limit their support of Black-owned restaurants to one week per year, according to Meltzer.
“I think it’s great when people come visit us during Black Restaurant Week, but I would encourage everyone to seek out ethnic-independent family restaurants and support them all year long,” Meltzer said.