The coronavirus has canceled countless culinary events in Newport Beach this year. Now the virus is intruding into 2021.
The 15th annual Newport Beach Restaurant Week, which was due to be held January 18 through 31, 2021, has been postponed. A new date has not been set.
That announcement came during the Newport Beach Restaurant Association Business Improvement District board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 18. It was scheduled to be discussed as Item 4 on the agenda, but was removed at the start of the meeting with no discussion and tabled until the next board meeting scheduled for Jan. 27, 2021. At that time, the Restaurant board will discuss new dates and ideas for Restaurant Week.
The reason for the postponement: Gov. Newsom’s recent announcement on moving Orange County back into the purple tier of COVID-19 restrictions, which mandated having restaurants regress to outdoor dining only.
However, Doug McClain, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Newport Beach and Co., the Destination Marketing Organization for Newport Beach, said that Visit Newport Beach (an umbrella organization of Newport Beach & Co.) is launching a new marketing campaign similar to the one used for the special Newport Beach Restaurant Month in September but rebranded for the holidays.
McClain shared the positive statistics from Restaurant Month, which he explained was designed to drive visitors and traffic into the restaurants without financial impact (including participation fees) to the restaurants.
“It was a new promotion using a dine pass, a mobile pass,” explained McClain. “People checked in to receive opportunities to win prizes that were donated by hotels and restaurants. The prizes are what drove a lot of the traffic,” although restaurants had an option to add discounts or other value-added items.
More than 4,300 people signed up for the dine pass, which McClain said was four times their goal.
A special drive-in media event was also successful in adding significant media coverage on Restaurant month.
“We had 44 million media impressions,” stated McClain. “Social media was a huge way to push the dine pass. Over 270,000 social media impressions went across Dine Newport Beach channels. Restaurants pushed it on their channels too. Paid advertising reached 6.3 million impressions, and the landing page we created for the dine pass received 50,000 page sessions.”
The new holiday pass is billed as a one-stop digital holiday guide for locals and visitors, and will provide users with such information as where to see Christmas lights in the city, dining options, shopping, hotels deals, and seasonal things to do. As with Restaurant Month, the promotion is provided free to restaurants and merchants and designed to drive traffic to local businesses.
“The holiday pass is a shop local initiative,” stated McClain. “As we enter the purple tier, this is designed to get locals to spend money here in Newport Beach.”
The Holiday Pass is available starting December 1, but people can sign up for it now at https://www.visitnewportbeach.com/holiday/.
One other important piece of business that the board approved during the meeting was a letter from the Newport Beach Restaurant Association BID to the Newport Beach City Council asking the council to extend the temporary use permit that allows restaurants to use sidewalks and parking lots for temporary patio dining areas. An extension of the permit is essential now that restaurants are forced to one again close indoor dining.
“We understand there is a new consideration to keep outdoor dining available, we strongly urge you to maintain this allowance for temporary use permits for as long as needed,” reads the letter to the council. “This allowance has afforded our business owners the ability to stay in operation by way of temporary construction of expanded outdoor space, safe curbside pick-up and take-out options. All of these flexible options are necessary for guests to feel safe and for our businesses to get by.”
The letter goes on to quote restaurant industry statistics: “According to the National Restaurant Association (Sept. 14, 2020), 1 in 6 restaurants are closed, 3 million employees are still out of work and the industry is on track to lose $240 billion in sales by the end of the year.”
Although Newport Beach has fared better in terms of restaurants going out of business, the letter notes that “we are still not operating normally by any means. Capacities are much lower, which means revenues are declining and hard costs such as rent, labor, goods and utilities remain the same. Not to mention, the added cost of building new outdoor infrastructures, the cost to run businesses during this new normal and the cost of safety supply inventories have compounded into a dire situation for all of us.”
And, while Newport Beach boasts mild weather, the approaching winter season will mandate heaters and tents to keep diners comfortable.
“We humbly request the City Council for support in maintaining temporary use permits. We also request any funding and support for additional infrastructure needs to prepare for the winter season,” which could include heaters, lights, and canopies.
The letter concludes by stating “Our restaurant community is in the bedrock of Newport Beach. We are a collective of resilient, hardworking and altruistic individuals dedicated to serving this community. We hope to continue contributing to the economic fabric of Newport Beach, please help us stay in business.”