HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - Small Business Saturday is just days away and on Wednesday, some local, state, and federal officials are urging people to think about restaurants as they look to support their favorite local businesses.

If you look around, Parkville Market has pretty much any type of food you could want, like Mexican, Jamaican, Italian, and seafood, and that’s symbolic of the restaurant scene here in Connecticut overall, but restaurant owners are worried about how many of them can survive another pandemic Winter.

"Growing up in Jamaica. I had my only little restaurant, little shop," Shawn McDonald, owner of the Jerk Shack, tells us.

Shawn has always had a passion for cooking, whether it be the little shop he had in Jamaica or his Hartford eatery.

He opened Jerk Shack in August of 2020 after working for years as a cook in Connecticut. Parkville Market’s owner says his vision was to create a space for people like McDonald.

"I built this with the idea that some of the folks that worked in the industry all their lives and never had their own place," Carlos Mouta, owner of the Parkville Market, stated.

But the pandemic has continues to be hard on restaurants.

Business has picked up, but owners are worried that could change as temperatures drop and outdoor dining is less attractive.

"We’re back. Restaurants are back. People are out again," said Senator Richard Blumenthal.

"Get out there and support a local restaurant. Better yet, discover a restaurant you haven’t tried before," says Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

Diners getting lunch at Parkville Market agree. Clayton White says he loves to try local restaurants anytime he’s back home visiting family.

"I think they could use the money more and their food is generally better. They put more effort into their food," White noted.

McDonald says he’s seen support from customers, but that doesn’t mean things have always been easy.

"Summer was good, but overall, it’s not the same as it would have been before the pandemic," continued McDonald.

There’s a push to get more federal relief. Connecticut restaurants have seen more than $300 million so far, but owners are looking for another $489 million.

"We will continue to work down in D.C. so we don’t lose anymore restaurants," Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, added.

The Connecticut Restaurant Association says the industry usually brings in $9 billion annually in revenue, but that’s down $2.5 billion during the pandemic.

So far, 600 restaurants have closed, but the association says many are just barely hanging on.


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