Many restaurants are operating on a reduced capacity because of restrictions meant to slow the spread of coronavirus, and some locals are stepping up to support those businesses and frontline workers.

Some people are buying meals from restaurants and giving those meals to health care workers, first responders or family and friends.

Islander Kristen Carlson got the idea while watching the news, she said.

“It’s giving back to those who are helping others in the health care field and first responders and just helping the businesses stay afloat,” Carlson said.

Island restaurant dining rooms have been closed since March 18, when a city order limited them to takeout and delivery.

About three weeks ago, Carlson began collecting money from friends and relatives to buy meals from local restaurants, she said. The effort is called Meals for Heroes.

“It’s little mom-and-pops that struggle when times get tough,” Carlson said.

Carlson has been delivering meals to the University of Texas Medical Branch workers once a week for three weeks now, she said.

In the first week, she ordered 50 meals from Smooth Tony’s, 415 9th St., Carlson said.

It was great for the restaurant, not only for the boost in business, but also to keep the staff busy, owner Tony Gonzalez said.

“When you’re in the business, you feel like you have to constantly be doing something,” Gonzalez said.

Business has definitely changed, Gonzalez said. Restaurateurs are unsure of what the future will hold and how long the closures will continue, he said.

“I think some people are getting nervous,” Gonzalez said. “I think people don’t know what to expect.”

But Gonzalez is optimistic and considers this chance to try new things, he said.

Mary Lou Kelso decided to purchase meals from Galveston Restaurant Group, which owns restaurants such as The Gumbo Diner, Papa’s Pizza, Mario’s Seawall Italian Restaurant, for the medical branch’s office of the president, she said.

“That was my contribution,” Kelso said.

She felt good giving back to people who were working hard and was happy to support local businesses hurting for revenue, she said.

It’s a great boost for businesses when people can help support restaurants, said James Clark, president of the Galveston Restaurant Association.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Clark said. “The purchases absolutely do help the restaurants because they’re gaining revenue.”

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; or on Twitter @HeathKeri.


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