Ruta Smith file photo

Stephanie Burt, host of The Southern Fork podcast, is calling for more support for Charleston’s independent restaurants and bars, still reeling from coronavirus-related closures over the past two months.

In a creative collaboration with Brennan Wesley, Burt narrates a solemn video op-ed highlighting the struggles facing the local food and beverage industry as dining restrictions are slowly lifted. Burt is also a freelance writer who has contributed to the likes of Bitter Southerner, Conde Nast Traveler and Charleston City Paper.

“Locally, the Charleston Regional Development Alliance guidelines (released only yesterday) do not begin to be the final say; there is no consideration of how new safe guidelines impact the solvency of these businesses,” Burt wrote in a letter Tuesday.

“Our restaurants and our city deserve more. We are calling for this to change. Locally owned restaurants and bars are essential. Let’s show them we mean it beyond signs and tips,” she wrote.

Locally, support has sprung from impromptu Facebook communities, grassroots efforts to spread the word about who remains open and fundraisers for out-of-work employees.

Burt continues, “We have a BAR to preserve some of the city’s architectural fabric, down to approved paint colors in some cases, so why are our community leaders sitting silently when independent bars and restaurants contribute so much to the city’s culture?”

Owners of independent restaurants, however, have struggled to have their causes validated by political leaders from the local to national levels despite widespread consumer support. Without financial assistance, many of the low-margin, long-hour businesses have been forced to fend for themselves.

“Local elected leaders are following their national counterparts and aren’t realistically responding to the food/bev community very much, if much at all.”

Burt calls for a “multi-tiered, creative approach” to help preserve the city’s cultural restaurant anchors.

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