For many bar and restaurant owners in Greenville — and indeed, across the world — 2020 was a gut punch. With COVID lockdowns, diminished sales and on-the-fly adjustments to entire business models, it was a year of uncertainty and fear. But it was also a year when regulars showed what it means to truly support a business, and when the value of a community showed its true colors.
Bars and restaurants hope for the best amid pandemic
Back in March, Lauren Ortiz, who runs Luna Rosa Gelato Café & Restaurant in downtown Greenville with her family, didn’t know how she was going to keep the business afloat.
“I feel like we’re in a movie,” she said after lockdowns were put in place. “I’m so heartbroken. At this point, we’re just hoping we can feed our immediate family.”
Restaurants were expected to lose upward of $225 billion in sales, or about a quarter of total sales for the year, according to the National Restaurant Association.
But months later, many have managed to survive, including Luna Rosa, which will soon open a second location in Mauldin.
Food fest euphoria looks back on 2020 with ‘relief and joy’
This year’s festival was more scaled-back than in years prior, with the large events and big crowds replaced with multiple smaller gatherings. Lunches, guest chef dinners and classrooms were the focus, allowing for social distancing and other safety measures.
“I joke, but it’s true when I say that we changed the plans for the festival about 300 times,” said Morgan Allen, euphoria’s executive director. “Now we’re all just feeling, I think, a little bit of relief and a lot of joy that nothing unexpected came up.”
Allen said it was a learning opportunity that has already inspired ideas for next year’s festival.
Bobby’s BBQ in Fountain Inn featured in YouTube ad campaign
Octavius and Sarah Nelson still aren’t exactly sure how it was that representatives from YouTube, the second-largest social media platform in the world, heard about their little barbecue spot in South Carolina.
But somehow, they had, and they wanted to know if the Nelsons would be interested in shooting a commercial.
Now that the commercial has been released, it’s already racked up more than 218,000 views.
Both Octavius and Sarah said they just hope others see the positivity in what happened to them.
“I always liked to say, keep doing what you’re doing as well as you can, and people will eventually find you,” Octavius said. “I can say for sure now that it’s true.”
Gather GVL files lawsuit after pandemic confusion
Gather GVL, the popular food hall in the West End of downtown Greenville by Fluor Field, filed the lawsuits against six of its tenants in June.
The suits stem from ongoing disputes over how much free rent each tenant is entitled to. Due to delays in opening the food hall, tenants were offered provisions including free rent credits, although the extent of those credits is now up for debate after COVID-19 shutdowns exacerbated confusion, as lease requirements mandated the tenants operate on a full-time basis.
Judge Alex Kinlaw ruled the dispute should be moved to mediation “in the equitable interest of all parties,” according to court documents.
New chef and owner takes over Ristorante Bergamo
Longtime chef and owner of Ristorante Bergamo, Nello Gioia, passed the torch on to his countryman and fellow chef, Gian Pietro Ferro.
Both men hail from the small region of Bergamo in Northern Italy.
“To find a guy who I have no idea who he is, in the middle of nowhere in New Jersey, and I’m out here in South Carolina, and we end up having the same background, same birthplace, same everything – I mean, what are the odds?” Gioia said. “It’s just weird, so very weird – or maybe just meant to be.”