CLEARWATER, Fla. — Clearwater leaders are launching a new program to help local restaurants deal with COVID-19 concerns and the slower summer months.
If you live in Clearwater, you can apply for a $20 voucher, which can be used to dine in, get take out or delivery at nine downtown restaurants.
City leaders already gave out 1,400 vouchers, which take effect beginning Wednesday, July 1 and end Aug. 31.
Clearwater’s Redevelopment Agency is funding $50,000 for the program.
Downtown Clearwater business owners say the program is being launched at a crucial time. At Downtown Pizza and Kara Lynn’s Kitchen, business owners Sarah Bellomy and Carolyn Bradham are struggling as sales slip.
“It’s been a nightmare,” Bradham said, as she explained how slow business has been since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
The summer months are already slow and with COVID-19 concerns, every sale has become crucial.
“It’s been brutal, horrible and really rough. Especially now with the spike in the virus, a lot of people aren’t as enticed to come out,” Bellomy added.
Clearwater leaders closed the 300 and 400 blocks of Cleveland Street to traffic to give restaurants more room to space apart tables outdoors. Now, the focus is shifting over to bringing back customers.
Amanda Thompson in Clearwater’s Community Redevelopment Agency hopes the innovative new voucher program will help.
“It’s $20. You can come down and get an appetizer or drinks or get a takeout meal and walk one short block to America’s best waterfront and watch a beautiful sunset. It’s a perfect summer night activity,” she said with a smile.
The voucher program is starting as a pilot project but Clearwater’s CRA hopes to expand it to help even more restaurants in the future.
“Having the voucher program is going to give that extra incentive for people to come down. Maybe they were on the fence but if they have a voucher they will at least come down and check us out and try it,” Bradham added.
“I’m hoping since it’s targeting the whole Clearwater area, maybe a lot of residents who live outside downtown will start trying to frequent down here and when they know there are so many restaurants hopefully it will get them down here more often,” Bellomy added.
Beginning Monday, July 6, city leaders will start taking applications for the next 2,500 vouchers.
For more information, click here.
Participating restaurants include: Chiang Mai Thai & Sushi Bar, Clear Sky on Cleveland, Downtown Pizza Sports Bar & Grill, Kara Lynn's Kitchen, Philly Joe's Steaks & Hoagies, Pour Yours, Roxy's, Soul Sicilian Fusion and Vera's Kitchen.