It’s 2016, ya’ll! Well, it should be. Maybe you snaked one of the early-bird copies of this winter edition in those waning days of December, but hey, you’ve had your office Christmas party, you’ve turned in your Grammy nominations—it’s a new year, for all intents and purposes. Which means it’s time to focus on those [...]
Maybe you snaked one of the early-bird copies of this winter edition in those waning days of December, but hey, you’ve had your office Christmas party, you’ve turned in your Grammy nominations—it’s a new year, for all intents and purposes.
Which means it’s time to focus on those resolutions—not those bullshit ones, though.
Do you really think the editor-in-chief of Stock & Barrel is really gonna use this space to tell you to eat and drink less?
But, I still have a list.
Mostly of things I plan to attack in 2016, fresh culinary adventures and a new set of habits that go beyond the things I resolve to continue doing—like eating Cheez-Its with my shirt off and drinking Early Times from a plastic bottle my old man keeps in his freezer.
Look, I’ll probably get on the basketball court more, do a pushup or three, and maybe inadvertently do some yoga trying to slither out of an Uber, but those aren’t deal-breakers. It’s the rest of these that will truly determine my level of personal fulfillment this year:
Grow more of my own food. The only sticking point is that I don’t currently have a backyard, but other people nearby do. I’m sure they’re tired of mowing that whole thing anyway—plus, you get to connect with your neighbors and stay green. Localx10.
Brew my own beer. You know how satisfying it feels when you eat a tomato out of your/our garden? Imagine that, but with a buzz.
Eat more meals in bed. I’m a busy man, but I don’t need a meal on the go—quite the opposite, in fact. Toss some protective cover on the sheets and some goods in a crockpot, and plug it in next to the alarm clock. Who wants to Netflix and Chili?
Connect to my roots. It’s been a decade-and-a-half since I celebrated my 21st birthday at Ohio State. Before Campus Partners bulldozes the remaining icons of my formative years, I plan to throw back a mystery-colored shot and wait in a really long line that may or may not be leading to a bathroom.
Execute a C-BUS Bar Crawl. I don’t mean that as shorthand for Columbus, I mean, let’s literally hop the free bus to as many joints as we can.
Make a nice punch. Drinks you dip into. Always enjoyable.
Roll my own sushi. It just seems calming.
Learn to like coffee. I know, right? What kinda writer isn’t fueled by gallons of coffee? It’s just never been my thing. I feel the same way at a coffee shop the same way a non-drinker feels at a bar. Maybe George Clooney can help me.
Work for one night only in a local restaurant. Because there comes a time in a man’s life where he just wants to be yelled at for his incompetence by a fresh set of mouths.
Eat more before I drink. Self-explanatory.
Eat more before I grocery shop: Self-explanatory.
Come up with better premises for my opening letters. If there’s time. Maybe in 2017. Either way, I’m doing it from my bed.
It's Friday night and Eight & Sand Tavern is empty. There’s not a pint being poured, a March Madness game on the televisions, or a song playing on the speakers. Saint Patrick’s Day? That came and went weeks ago. A month that was supposed to be primed for making cash has turned into quite the opposite.
This is life for Brody Wakefield, owner of Eight & Sand Tavern, and many others involved in the bar industry. Life has come to a screeching halt amid the COVID-19 outbreak. This situation has evolved quickly and the impacts have been sweeping, leaving little time for many of these folks to prepare for the unknown in the upcoming months. Combine an international pandemic with the slow financial months for bars in winter and you are left with a tough situation.
“We’ve just come out of our two slowest months of the year—where we actually lose money—and we [were] hoping March is the month where we turn a corner,” Wakefield said. “St. Patrick’s Day, patio weather, and March Madness often make March the best month of the year. Now it’s gone.”
Columbus has welcomed many new bars to its city within the last few years and Eight & Sand fits the bill as a newly opened spot. It requires a great deal of overhead and risk to open a bar, and hitting goals and projections are crucial for long-term survival. Though Wakefield said the tavern was on track in many ways, it was still two years out from hitting those projections that can provide regular profits. Given past viruses and diseases that garnered media attention, he said COVID-19 wasn’t something that was initially concerning him. It was business as usual until simply it wasn’t.
“This is unprecedented territory. Like most folks, I underestimated the results early on, citing the many outbreaks we’ve had over the last few decades and thinking our exposure would be minimal. I thought about SARS, H1N1, Zika, Ebola and others that certainly had a global impact, but locally we came out relatively unscathed,” he said. “That thought process didn’t age very well.”
Quickly, what looked like something that would blow over became chaos. Now, with business closed indefinitely, he’s looking into coronavirus-related small business loans with lowered interest rates and extended payment periods, but like many things during a pandemic, there are caveats.
“We are still a young business. We only have one year of tax filings available right now, and we don’t show a regular history of profitability, so those may be barriers we’re not able to overcome,” he explained. “The SBA Disaster Relief portal also crashed [on March 23], so we’re in an additional level of purgatory.”
In a press release, the Columbus Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild said that industry experts predict 25 percent of Ohio’s 22,000 bars and restaurants will close business permanently due to the outbreak. While the Guild is in agreement with the calls for social distancing, it has left more than half a million Ohioans without a job seemingly overnight. In collaboration with the Cincinnati and Cleveland chapters, the USBG has sent letters to more than 200 public officials outlining the struggles the industry is facing and the kind of relief they will need to survive this.
“The state has laid us off, not our employers,” the press release stated. “The state bears responsibility for providing us with full, livable incomes while we serve through our duty of preventing the spread of COVID-19. We are Ohioans who love to help and serve, but in this time of turmoil, we must ask the public for help.”
This pandemic has exposed some of the problems that are inherent in the service industry. Variables such as low hourly wages have led to servers receiving unemployment checks that are well below 50 percent of their typical income, or simply struggling to even get unemployment. It’s also shown the need for these employees to have benefits in place such as health care, retirement, and paid time off. This, combined with the fact that many places aren’t hiring in the midst of an international pandemic, and you can start to get a clearer picture of the magnitude of this situation for many folks.
Wakefield takes these sentiments to heart. While he attempts to navigate the waters of receiving a loan, his staff lives unemployed and unsure how they will meet their basic needs like rent, utilities and food. However, through all this adversity, he and his staff are banding together.
“Our staff has been incredibly gracious and understanding. We have a group of all-stars that I’d put up against anybody,” he explained. “We opened a GoFundMe to try to ease the burden, and we’ve had some really generous friends and regulars donate.” Still, the unpredictability of this crisis adds challenges. “I’m hoping we can meet that goal but the reality is, we don’t know what to ask for because we have no idea what the timeline will be. There’s so much uncertainty right now, which is perhaps the hardest piece.”
As Wakefield said, it’s time for leaders to lead, and much like other bar owners in the city, he’s doing his best to lead his team. Plus, he’s leading in other ways, too.
“I’ve been turning myself inside out for the past two years trying to get Eight & Sand off the ground. Long days, late nights, and very little time with my wife and three young girls. So now I have been able to really dig in as a father again, which is amazing,” Wakefield said. “Bike rides, our daily viewing of Frozen II, and having family meals again is a recharge I wasn’t aware I needed.”
These impacts on the economy aren’t exclusive to the bar scene, and Wakefield is concerned for those within the restaurant scene, too. He thinks of some of his favorite spots around town like Ambrose & Eve, Skillet, Barcelona, and Red Brick Tavern and knows—much like his own tavern—they will need assistance to survive all this.
“The community is doing what it can to support small businesses, but we’ll need politicians on both sides of the line to work together to help them survive,” he said.
Of course, there are ways we, the community, can support our favorite establishments. Similarly to Eight & Sand, many places have started a GoFundMe to support non-hourly waged employees. There’s also take-out from many spots as well as delivery options with reduced fees on apps such as UberEats, PostMates, and GrubHub. Those are some “easier” ways to support the food and drink scene in the city. But if you want to truly help out, pick up a phone; Wakefield encourages you to make a call to a local representative.
“We also are asking people to reach out to their representatives to press for sales tax relief for the months of February and March,” he explained. “Ask them to loosen SBA stipulations so newer businesses aren’t being left out. Ask them to provide real relief for restaurants.”
And above all else, show some kindness to your fellow community members.
“We just need to be patient and have some empathy for each other. I’ve seen a lot of folks using this situation to lob political spears at their perceived opponents. We don’t have the luxury of division right now. Let’s understand that yes, the service industry is in peril right now, but there will be other industries that follow quickly and they also will need help. The economy could be in real trouble right now. We’ll need real action from our elected officials to solve these problems in the short term.”
Columbus has a certain love affair with food trucks. We must, since there are over 200 of them in the metro area. Ranging from international flavors to local staples, these mobile kitchens bring slices of diverse cuisine to our parks, favorite bars and sidewalks.
It’s a challenging business in good times, with most trucks having just a few hours each day to log a success. Of course this is Ohio, so weather brings its own challenges to the table. While the entire restaurant industry has been hit hard by closures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, food trucks are now facing an economic snowstorm.
“It’s devastating. Some are making 10 percent of what they did. The spots they have on a daily basis, 90 percent cancelled,” said Nik Gandhy, founder of Streetfoodfinder.com, a website that helps the public locate their favorite food trucks.
On top of their daily walk-up business, a significant portion of business is catering parties and events. Those too, have been virtually
“Here at Pitabilities, we are working hard to keep our staff employed as much as possible. Our sales have dropped nearly 90 percent, with some new opportunities coming up that may help us save a few jobs. As of today, we are making some really hard decisions as to who and how many of our staff to lay off. This has been the most difficult decision of my entire life, I have never laid off anyone in over 35 years of having employees,” Jim Pashovich, founder of Pitabilities trucks, said.
Despite these hardships, there is a certain resilience and scrappiness that makes up the food truck community. Leading the charge is the Central Ohio Food Truck Association (COFTA).
Last week, COFTA introduced its Neighborhood Pickup program. This program is offering the opportunity for local food trucks to continue to serve their community, while practicing appropriate social
In the coming weeks, food trucks are scheduled to serve at designated locations around Greater Columbus. These locations have been selected with ample parking and immediate access to residential neighborhoods. Residents can view live, updated truck schedules online and place their order in advance. A designated pickup time will be provided, eliminating the need to wait in line to order. Payment can also be made online, so cash and cards do not need to be exchanged at the order window.
“We have transitioned from serving our guests at their place of employment and now going to the neighborhoods where they live. Our lunch service is nearly nonexistent and we hope that we can build a dinner service in the neighborhoods,” Pashovish said.
Gandhy added there are also efforts to use Nextdoor.com to identify neighborhoods that would like to see a food truck stop by.
“It’s hard, but we’re trying to get better finding new spots. We’re actually trying to go to apartment complexes instead of the streets, so we can get some business,” Abimael Ruiz, owner of two Taquitos food
Food safety has always been a high priority for the food truck industry, and with the new social distancing measures in place, they are working on methods to serve carry-out while keeping customers safe.
“A lot of the trucks have signs out that say “please respect social distancing.” So customers can still walk up to order. But other trucks are requiring all orders be placed online,” Gandhy said.
Gandhy has been working day and night to get as many food trucks as possible set up with online ordering so they can better compete in the new reality. Customers can find a truck, place an order, and pay on the site, and walk-up to the truck when it’s ready for pick-up.
Despite the massive challenges facing these small business owners, many of whom toil in their trucks day-in, day-out, the guy who builds many of the trucks thinks the industry will survive, and perhaps even grow as a result of this economic storm.
Michael Gallichio is the owner of Titan Trucks—a Central Ohio custom food truck builder and founder of the annual Food Truck Fest.
Gallichio says the latest food truck boom was created in the wake of the last economic collapse when everyone lost their jobs. “People figured, hey I don’t have a job, and for a relatively small investment I can be in business for myself.”
Starting a truck can be done for as little as $75,000, according to Gallichio. For now though, those dreaming of a new mobile business will need to wait, as the current food truck operators figure out ways to navigate a world with far less demand and virtually no access to crowds.
“Some of the food trucks are shutting down and hoping to ride it out. But these guys are innovators. They’re gonna find a way. That’s what’s so cool about this industry. They’re constantly evolving,” Gallichio said.
As for the Food Truck Festival, it’s still scheduled for early August, but like many things these days, that’s subject to change as the state and nation combat the coronavirus threat. Until then, we can all daydream of being next in line, wearing our flip-flops, hot sun on our back, cold beer in our hand, waiting to experience something special.
If social distancing and working from home has made your days of going to your favorite coffeeshop and café something of the past, Lauren Culley of Fox in the Snow wants to bring the café to your kitchen.
Culley, co-owner of Fox in the Snow, has put together this step-by-step recipe for the biscuits the café uses in many of its popular sandwiches and pastry items. As this recipe doesn't require many fancy ingredients, she said this should be an easy recipe for folks at home to make during shelter-in-place.
In the video below, Culley shows how to she creates the menu item buttermilk biscuits with house made jam.