Restaurants — Struggling Themselves — Remain Creative Partners In Feeding St. Louis
To an outside observer, it appears that restaurant owners Joe Jovanovich and Mohammed Qadadeh have enough on their plates just to keep their restaurants open. They run the Pat Connolly Tavern or American Falafel and are busy finding innovative ways to run and pay their employees in the challenging year 2020.
But they have also campaigned to address food insecurity among their neighbors amid it all – as have many of their colleagues in the vibrant and highly competitive St. Louis restaurant industry. It makes sense for local businesses investing in the area to take this initiative, said Jovanovich, whose Dogtown tavern recently launched Nourish the Neighborhood, a pay-it-forward food program.
The Pat Connolly Tavern has not reopened its indoor dining area since the first COVID-19 shutdown in March, but is still hanging on to it.
“I assume that there are many more needs and difficulties in the church than most of us really know. … We only see the tip of the iceberg in most of our lives, “he told St. Louis on the Air.” But I think as we go further into winter we will see more evidence of how many people are struggling, how many companies struggle. “
Along the Delmar Loop, Qadadeh and other restaurateurs took action last month after St. Louis County introduced new COVID-19 regulations banning eating indoors. They launched a program that encourages anyone who places an online order with one of the participating companies to donate a meal to an important employee. The Qadadeh team has also partnered with the non-profit Welcome Neighbor STL for meals in the past few months.
The Pat Connolly Tavern in Dogtown recently launched its Nourishing Our Neighbors fundraising program.
On Thursday’s show, guest host Jonathan Ahl spoke to Qadadeh and Jovanovich about how their businesses are managing to survive and protect their employees and customers while helping others survive the pandemic.
Qadadeh, who just opened the American falafel in June and is a newcomer to the food scene, credits the strong community he found along the Delmar Loop for helping to make this happen so far.
“When the announcement happened [in November] that shutdown [of indoor dining in St. Louis County] We teamed up within 48 hours, ”he said. “And we now have up to 20 restaurants in the loop that are participating in the loop return program. Basically every Sunday or Wednesday we raise funds and make them available to frontline workers and hospitals across St. Louis. … And more people donate, which is fantastic. “
Mohammed Qadadeh’s long journeys between St. Louis and Dubai finally led to his concept for the American falafel.
Jovanovich stressed that fundraising efforts should by no means compete with the ongoing urge to donate funds to the region’s food banks. However, these efforts can expand the safety net – and help keep local businesses and employees working at the same time.
“Hopefully people [view] A business that goes beyond direct service, ”added Jovanovich,“ whether it’s food or something else, but also [in terms of] how it helps the neighborhood to come together, that sense of community. And one of the great things about the St. Louis dining community is how much it creates the sense of place that makes us special here in St. Louis. “
“St. Louis on the Air ”tells you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.