Winter Restaurant Week returns Jan. 17-23. The seven-day event, promoted by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), seeks to motivate people to dine out in support of a favorite dining spot or try something new. Fixed prices have been established for lunch, dinner and brunch. On the Winter Restaurant Week dining filter, patrons can select cuisines and locations.
The rise in COVID-19 cases has forced dining establishments to reinstitute mandates many thought counted as a thing of the past. RAMW’s website has COVID-19 updates specific to the District, Maryland and Virginia.
“Mandates are never ideal but we are at an inflection point with this virus. We expected additional measures might be considered to maintain health and safety,” said RAMW President/CEO Kathy Hollinger.
“We have many local restaurants already requiring proof of vaccination, but most are not, nor have the capacity to do so. It will be important that we work collaboratively to achieve a seamless and measured process with minimal burden on small businesses who have a very thin infrastructure.”
Last September, RAMW’s annual awards program, the RAMMYS, honored restaurants, bars and purveyors in new categories that recognized necessary dining options like takeout and pop-ups. These alternatives to a traditional restaurant experience will probably be in high demand for 2022 Winter Restaurant Week.”
FishScale serves as a small family-owned restaurant at 637 Florida Avenue in Northwest, one block away from the historic Howard Theatre. The restaurant has been a RAMW member, participated in a RAMW Restaurant Week before and also Black Restaurant Week, which isn’t affiliated with RAMW.
Mayor Muriel Browser visits Fishscale during Black Restaurant Week in November 2021. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)
Restaurants can expect to pay a fee to participate in the event as well as the association’s membership fee.
Black Restaurant Week does not charge restaurants and bars to participate. FishScale will not join in RAMW’s Winter Restaurant Week.
FishScale’s co-owners are siblings. Chef Henry Brandon Williams and Kristel Williams have been fortunate not to shut down during the pandemic. Loyal customers have continued to patronize the eatery, but FishScale would like to hire more staff like most restaurants and bars.
“It’s definitely been tricky. We slightly changed our hours,” Kristel said. “A lot of our customers are people who utilize services in the area.”
Kristel expressed her thanks for RAMW’s support and advocacy on behalf of restaurants during the pandemic. According to Kristel, some of RAMW’s fees were complimentary early in the pandemic. RAMW now has a sliding scale membership fee, making it more affordable for smaller dining establishments to benefit. Still, budgets remain tight for most restaurants and bars.
“It took us a while to wrap our heads around RAMW because it appeared most of their members were fine dining restaurants with three-course meals,” said Kristel, who remains on sabbatical from her career as a clinical pharmacist.
Kristel said she appreciates the surveys that RAMW conducts among restaurants. During the pandemic, she feels this has been an excellent method to understand what businesses need, what to say to local policymakers and target services.
“RAMW has also been creative in breaking down restaurants by neighborhoods so that people can go to places closer to home. RAMW also has done a fantastic job with helping business owners stay up-to-date on legislation that impacts us,” she said while speaking specifically about the Restaurant Revitalization Act.
The program provides emergency assistance for eligible restaurants, bars, and other qualifying businesses impacted by COVID-19.
Survival of the restaurant industry in the metro area is the top priority for RAMW.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, two years ago, restaurants saw a 70% decrease in their sales compared to pre-pandemic numbers,” Hollinger said. “Now, two years later, restaurants are bringing in about 75% of their pre-pandemic sales. Restaurants are also operating with about 75% of their normal staff size.”
To access restaurants participating in Winter Restaurant Week, visit https://ramw.org/restaurantweek
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