Greater Fort Lauderdale has kicked off its annual Dine Out Lauderdale promotion early, in order to help restaurants struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
The summer program, which started in time for the Fourth of July weekend, will run through September 30 as part of LauderDeals, a broader initiative that also showcases promotional rates at local attractions, spa, and hotels. The promotion is Broward County's answer to Miami Spice, which also runs through September.
So far, more than 40 participants have signed on to Dine Out Lauderdale, in destinations that include Dania Beach, Hollywood, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Lauderhill, and Pompano Beach. Each restaurant will offer three-course prix-fixe dinner menus at $35 and $45.
As was the case last year, no fee is required for restaurants to participate.
"People were anxious to get out and eat and dine in, so we sat down and talked about how we could have the biggest impact on the hospitality industry," explains Stacy Ritter, CEO and president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Restaurants are trying to break even from reduced occupancy and we're doing everything we can to keep them full. We might even extend the deadline."
Ritter tells New Times that some local restaurants were raring to go, while others put off signing up.
"We had 70 participants last year and we would like to get past that number, but it's going to take a little longer in this current scenario," she says. "We anticipated a slow response since restaurants are focused on getting up and running. Also, it is going to be much slower these months without tourists."
Broward restaurants and businesses are also participating in the Visit Lauderdale Safe + Clean Pledge, agreeing to adopt federal protocols, including social distancing and the use of facemasks, hand sanitizer, and, ideally, contactless payment. Guests can look for Safe + Clean signs posted at area businesses or for related seals on businesses' website listings.
"Some restaurants have done remarkable jobs in showing how important the safety of the patron is," notes Ritter, adding that this year the bureau is making a special effort to include businesses along the U.S. 441 corridor. "It is an area with family-owned restaurants with a great diversity of food offerings that needs a significant amount of help right now," she says.
Broward restaurateur Tim Petrillo, whose group the Restaurant People runs S3 (Sun, Surf, Sand), Boatyard, and YOLO (You Only Live Once), calls the summer promotion "a way of motivating locals to get out and dine." That presents a challenge every summer, but all the more so now. "People are scared because this virus is so unknown, we can't control or predict anything, and the lack of proper information does nothing to ease people's minds.
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"We're going on five weeks now," Petrillo adds. "The first three weeks had steady climbs, but then the spikes in outbreaks started and now we're at two-thirds of revenue compared to this time last year. We're actually doing better than expected considering the circumstances — but still, we're all looking forward to the day that this is over."
The current lineup of Dine Out Lauderdale restaurants:
- 15th Street Fisheries
- Anthony's Runway 84
- Aruba Beach Cafe
- B Square Burgers + Booze
- Bar Rita
- Beach House Pompano
- Bistro Mezzaluna
- Blue Moon Fish Co.
- Boathouse at The Riverside Hotel
- Brimstone Woodfire Grill
- Brown Dog Eatery
- Burlock Coast
- Café Ibiza
- Café Maxx
- Café Vico
- Caffe Europa
- Casa Sensei
- Casablanca Cafe
- Chima Steakhouse
- The Cook and The Cork (opening July 22)
- El Mar Cafe
- Foxy Brown
- Fra Diavolo
- Gatsby's Joint
- Harborwood Urban Kitchen & Bar
- Ireland's Steakhouse at Bonaventure Resort & Spa
- Le Bistro
- Lona Cocina Tequileria
- Luigi's Tuscan Grill
- Ocean Alley Restaurant & Beach Bar
- Patio Bar & Grill at Sands Harbor Resort & Marina
- Pump Sushi and Thai Cuisine
- Rodizio Grill at Dania Pointe
- S3 Sun, Surf, Sand
- Sal's Italian Ristorante
- Seasons 52
- Serafina Trattoria Italiana
- Sunset Catch Restaurant
- Taverna Opa
- Temple Street Eatery
- Thasos Restaurant
- Wild Sea Oyster Bar & Grille at The Riverside Hotel
For more information, visit sunny.org.