Nia Grace, co-founder of the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition and owner of Darly’s Corner Kitchen and Bar, is fighting back against the harrowing impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on her life and business. Grace’s businesses are among the few Black-owned businesses in Boston that need a liquor license to operate, and that have joined forces to ensure they save their liquor licenses and, more than that, their establishments from the threat of closing.
The Boston Black Hospitality Coalition is made up of Wally’s Jazz Cafe, District 7 Tavern, Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen, Savvor Restaurant & Lounge, and Soleil Restaurant & Catering. These five businesses reportedly are among the eight black-owned liquor-licensed bars and restaurants in the city. The coalition plans to provide financial assistance for black-owned businesses. Coalition founding members teamed with the Boston branch of the NAACP to form the group early into the statewide shutdown of businesses.
Similar to states all over the country, Massachusetts has seen a wide range of information change and timelines pushed back, all while desperately trying to maintain a safe and efficient method of transitioning back to normal life. As the state slowly drifts from the different phases, businesses in the food and hospitality industry are at high risk.
“There’s no people here, there is no music, there is no laughter [or] smiles. The life has been sucked out,” said Grace.
The coalition was created primarily as a means to effectively build a collective of like-minded individuals to provide support, and create an action plan for staying afloat during the crisis.
Grace shared her personal story detailing how she was forced to cut the large majority of her staff and though she remains hopeful, she is still very much uncertain how long her business and others can withstand the financial burden of being stuck in the current phase of limited dining capacity.
Cheryl Straughter, the owner of Soleil Restaurant and Catering, was in the midst of premiering an entire new event space and full-service bar prior to the health crisis shutting down all indoor forms of nightlife and entertainment.
Located right in the heart of Nubian Square, one of the most culturally relevant locations in Boston for Black people and a few feet away from the giant Black Lives Matter mural painted on the pavement, Straughter’s restaurant has seen a major drop in customer foot traffic. Despite this, her spirit remains high as well for a positive outcome when things get back to normal — whenever that may be.
One step Grace has taken is to create a GoFundMe page, We Ain’t Going Nowhere. The page directs those who are interested in helping the coalition to donate and follow the blog for more information. As of mid-August the group already had amassed over $12,000 in donations.
“I began this business because growing up there were not a lot of role models I could look up to,” Grace told Atlanta Black Star. “Being a Black business owner is important not only to me but to others to see that.”