In spring and early summer, as thousands of restaurants closed for good around the country, many observers were predicting doom for locally-owned restaurants, especially in cities like Savannah that rely so heavily on tourism.
The pandemic contributed to the closure of a number of Savannah-area restaurants, but we haven’t seen anything like the carnage that was anticipated.
Instead, we have been reminded daily of the resilience of restaurateurs and their employees.
And we continue to see new spots open despite the reduced demand.
A friend and I recently ate outside at Tacos+Tequila, the newest location of the locally owned Tequila’s Town restaurant group. N.W. Gabbey took a deep dive into the menu and vibe in a recent column here in Do.
It’s great to see the indoor-outdoor space at 1611 Habersham St. buzzing with activity again, and I’m looking forward to future visits as Tacos+Tequila gets settled into the neighborhood.
Of course, that’s not the only new entry on the restaurant scene. Folks like me who have generally been avoiding sit-down experiences will eventually have a lot of catching up to do.
The restaurant and brewery Hop Atomica, which has both indoor and outdoor seating, opened during the pandemic at 535 E. 39th St.
OAK 36 Bar + Kitchen recently opened with an enticing menu in Twelve Oaks Shopping Center at 5500 Abercorn St.
Bowls & Bubbles is now open at 206 W. Broughton St. with poke bowls, Kung Fu Tea and other items.
Of course, the opening of the Plant Riverside District brought multiple new restaurants to the west end of River Street.
That’s just a sampling of establishments that opened during the pandemic, and it’s worth noting that more restaurants are on the horizon.
Work continues on the beautiful historic building at Abercorn and 37th streets that will soon see new life as Common Thread, the promising new restaurant from the team at FARM in Bluffton.
The Green Truck Pub team continues work on their much-anticipated pizza place at the corner of Duffy and Habersham streets.
A proposed restaurant on Whitaker Street north of Victory Drive will soon be working its way through the approval processes.
New and existing restaurants will face a difficult environment until the pandemic is under better control, but this tough stretch has led to some smarter policies that might help in the long run.
Savannah officials have changed rules and expedited requests for outdoor seating, which was always in high demand. State law now allows restaurants to sell package alcohol – a huge boon to establishments that have strengthened their takeout menus and service.
We could still be doing more to support restaurants. I remain puzzled that we haven’t converted a few downtown blocks for outdoor dining.
West Congress Street between Montgomery and Jefferson streets would be a perfect candidate for outdoor tables and entertainment.
Of course, local diners remain a critical ingredient. If we want locally owned restaurants not only to survive but also thrive, we have to make smart decisions.
Bill Dawers writes the City Talk column for the Savannah Morning News.