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Winter storms wreaking havoc on Boston’s restaurant industry

They’ve tried everything: snow shoe valet, a place to put your skis, all-day ramen, cold weather soups and grogs, dollar oysters, half-price prix fixe menus, scratch-made hot chocolate, and perhaps the most enterprising, free appetizers with an Uber receipt. Maybe you’ve been plugged into the popular hashtag, #OpenInBOS, or follow establishments like West Bridge, Kirkland Tap & Trotter, or Bondir on Twitter and Facebook. All three of those restaurants—as well as countless other eateries—have attempted one, if not several of the aforementioned promotions. Such desperate measures may seem straight out of the TGI Fridays or Olive Garden playbook, but it’s a sobering reminder of just how creative some of the city’s finest chefs and restaurateurs have had to get in order to fill dining room seats in an increasingly snow-ravaged city.

“We’ve always tried to stay open, from the beginning, just to serve our community and our neighborhood,” says chef Tony Maws (Kirkland Tap & Trotter, Craigie on Main). Through three major snow storms in the past three weeks, Maws has resorted to housing staff members in nearby hotels while offering cut-rate tasting menus and discounted bar bites at his two popular, high-profile establishments. “As much as I’m a proud New Englander and happy to see everyone outside skating and playing hockey, there’s a part of me that’s going batshit crazy. Margins are in the restaurant industry are already teeny and now we’re trying just to hold on,” he says.

Massachusetts Restaurant Association president Bob Luz paints an even bleaker picture, saying the recent barrage of bad weather could mirror the long-term effects seen after the Blizzard of ’78. “There’s no doubt that snow greatly affects the restaurant industry, but with this type of prolonged event, everything just gets compounded. What you have to realize is that these are sales that restaurants never recoup. Just as an example, if you had to cancel a haircut appointment because of bad weather, you’ll just reschedule and go back later in the week. But if you decide to not go out to eat before the Beanpot, it just doesn’t happen. The closures and lack of business are having a big effect on our employees because they’re not getting work and not earning money. And these employees are often local to the area where they work. That’s why we’re urging people to get out and support their neighborhood restaurants.”

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