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Race and Economy

In Texas, some Black-owned barbecue restaurants saw an uptick in business during summer protests

Elizabeth Myong Oct 14, 2020
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Brothers Juan (left) and Brent Reaves stand in front of their store, Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que in Dallas. Keren Carrión/KERA
Race and Economy

In Texas, some Black-owned barbecue restaurants saw an uptick in business during summer protests

Elizabeth Myong Oct 14, 2020
Heard on:
Brothers Juan (left) and Brent Reaves stand in front of their store, Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que in Dallas. Keren Carrión/KERA
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Small businesses have been struggling during the pandemic, particularly Black-owned businesses. In the last few months, Black owners of barbecue restaurants in North Texas say the pandemic has presented new challenges for their businesses, that have seen a downturn in catering and in-store sales.

But following the protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in early June, some Black business owners said their establishments have seen surges in business. For some, the growth in customers looking for ways to support the Black community was short-lived. But for others, customers have continued to come back, thanks in part to social media.

“I think across the board, the initiative to support Black businesses has helped sustain us through the pandemic,” said Juan Reaves, who co-owns Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que.

This year, he said Smokey John’s saw its biggest Juneteenth sales — up 400% compared to last year. Still, Reaves says the cancellation of the State Fair of Texas was a “huge blow.” He said it usually brings in a third of his restaurant’s annual revenue.

“There’s no way we can make all that up,” Reaves said.

More than 40% of Black-owned businesses in Texas say they could close because of the pandemic, according to a preliminary statewide survey by the Texas Association for African American Chambers of Commerce.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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