SARATOGA COUNTY — The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce will launch a campaign urging the public to support restaurants and other local businesses affected by COVID-19 restrictions during the year-end holidays, Chamber President Todd Shimkus said Wednesday.
The “Save Our Local Businesses” promotion and business aid campaign hasn’t been officially announced, but Shimkus outlined the plan at a meeting of the county Board of Supervisors’ Economic Development Committee in Ballston Spa.
Many restaurants have expanded or improvised outdoor seating over the summer due to the pandemic restrictions on indoor dining, but their is concern those businesses will face new struggles as cold weather affects outdoor dining and indoor seating at restaurants remains limited to 50 percent. Also, a significant part of the population remains hesitant about dining indoors.
“With the changing of the seasons the chamber is concerned as we are about some of the businesses struggling through the end of the year,” said Economic Development Committee Chairman John Lawler, R-Waterford.
Businesses like gyms and personal care salons also face capacity restrictions and new cleaning costs, and many of those businesses were closed for months in the early stages of the pandemic, which began in March and continues.
“We are worried about the local independently owned firms that we have in all of our communities,” Shimkus told the committee “It’s been tough. We need a good holiday season.”
The chamber, which is based in Saratoga Springs and has 3,000 members, will be using posters and other promotion to remind the public to shop local, and it will bring back what was seen as a successful restaurant takeout promotion from the spring, when pandemic restrictions imposed by New York state required all restaurants to close on-site dining. That promotion at its height involved 170 restaurants, Shimkus said.
“For many people who are still not comfortable going out and speaking to other people, people who are going to do their shopping online, we want them to do it at local businesses,” Shimkus said.
The chamber will work with individual businesses on marketing and promotion, and will have a designated help phone line in the chamber office.
All the help for businesses will be free. “We are doing it for members and non-members, we don’t care,” Shimkus said. “If you are in Saratoga County, we want to help you.”
Lawler said the county should consider a link through its website to whatever online resources the chamber provides.
“I think it’s a great effort, and I think it’s very timely,” he said. “Having the chamber get out in front on this especially at this time of year I think can make a big difference. When this is over — and this will be over — we want these businesses to be there.”
COVID-19 remains a presence in Saratoga County, even though it hasn’t had a COVID-connected death since June. None of the state’s current hotspots are in the Capital Region, but new cases are being confirmed on a daily basis; there were six new confirmed cases in the county on Tuesday, according to the county Public Health Department, and there are currently 609 people in quarantine after exposures to COVID.