The hospitality industry–and the estimated 15 million Americans it employs–has already taken a beating even in the early days of what could be weeks or months of isolation due to COVID-19. Particularly impacted are the very small, local businesses that make up the fabric of city life. And, while you can support some of your favorite spots by placing take-away and delivery orders, those won’t replace all the lost revenue. So what other ways are there to support bars and restaurants in L.A. during this crisis? One option growing in popularity are “dining bonds,” which work like gift certificates with a twist.
Organized by groups like SupportRestaurants.org, bar and restaurant owners are offering customers the opportunity to buy a “bond” entitling them to an amount of food and drink about 25 percent more than what you’re paying up front (i.e. you’ll pay $75 now to get a gift certificate worth $100). The deal comes with one small catch: Customers agree not to come to cash in their certificates for at least 30 to 60 days, even if the business in question is legally allowed to open before that date rolls around.
If enough regular customers who are still getting salaries for jobs they can do remotely buy the certificates now, the theory goes, it can give the restaurants a small cushion to cover expenses, and maybe even provide financial assistance to cooks, waitstaff, bartenders, and back-of-house workers–many of whom are being laid off across the county right now.
Currently the local restaurants that have singed on with the SupportRestaurants.org bond program are Idle Hour, Bigfoot Lodge, Highland Park Bowl, Harlowe Bar, Formosa Cafe, Thirsty Crow, V DTLA, Veranda, Barcito, Taste on Melrose, Tortilla Republic, Da Lat Rose, Oldfield’s Liquor Room, and Coni’Seafood. More participants may join; updated information about participants can be found online. To purchase the bonds, contact the restaurants directly. And, if you’re worried about a neighborhood gem that isn’t involved yet, consider reaching out and asking if this (or a traditional gift certificate) might be a way you can help.
Lest there be any confusion, these informal certificates aren’t truly “bonds” in the Wall Street sense of the term. You won’t receive any additional financial yield (helping save a beloved small business and support the local economy should be yield enough) and, more importantly, should the restaurant go through financial hardship after all this, it’s unlikely they will consider holders of these bonds as creditors in a potential bankruptcy.