The novel coronavirus pandemic — and voter suppression efforts — make casting a ballot in person a complicated proposition this year. The U.S. Postal Service is in crisis at a time when voting early is more important than ever. After a summer of increased social activism in the District, a number of local restaurants and brands are coming up with ways to incentivize employees and customers to get out and vote leading up to the presidential election.
Here’s a look at what local restaurants, hospitality groups, and chains are doing ahead of Election Day on Tuesday, November 3.
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The national chain, which has its roots in the District, announced back in 2018 it would be closing all restaurants on Election Day and giving employees paid time off to vote. All &pizza shops will be closed once again November 3.
“&pizza employs over 700 people across several states, and we want to make sure they have our support alongside the necessary resources to enact the change they want to see in the 2020 election,” CEO and co-founder Michael Lastoria says in a press release.
Employees also receive three days of paid time off each year to participate in activism of their choosing.
Bake the Vote
The D.C.-based organizers at Bakers Against Racism have made another wide-reaching push calling for bake sales that will raise money for organizations working to ensure a fair election and preserving everyone’s right to vote. Go here for information on how to participate, and search the #BakersAgainstRacism hashtag on Instagram to connect with bakers.
Barcelona Wine Bar
The Spanish tapas restaurant and wine bar, which boasts three restaurants in the D.C. region and more than a dozen nationwide, has signed on to the voting initiative Time to Vote. In order to sign on to the initiative, which now includes more than 1,300 members, companies must make a “commitment to ensure that their employees had a work schedule that allowed them time to vote.”
The D.C.-based Mediterranean chain, which now features 75 locations nationwide, first offered paid time off to all team members to vote in 2018. Ahead of this year’s election, it has signed on to the Time to Vote initiative and announced it is extending the 2018 policy by offering paid time off for all local, state, and federal elections.
Centrolina & Piccolina
Chef-owner Amy Brandwein, who has Italian restaurants Centrolina and Piccolina in CityCenterDC, announced she will be closing both businesses on November 3. In addition, she reports she has provided her employees with educational voting information, including resources for how to volunteer.
In order to fund her staff members’ paid leave on Election Day, Brandwein has curated a takeout meal “Election Night Kit For Two.” The multi-course meal includes an artisanal cheese platter, a spinach and fontina lasagne, and half a sommelier selection of red or white wine. Interested diners can preorder the kit for pickup or delivery until October 31. The meal will also be available the evening of November 2 and the morning of November 3.
The huge urban winery in Ivy City is organizing a virtual concert called Voice Your Vote on Sunday, October 18. The lineup is inspired by singer-songwriter Valerie June’s “Young, Gifted & Black” playlist. Proceeds from streaming tickets ($15) go to Fair Fight and Movement Voter Project’s Black-Led Organizing Fund.
Ahead of Election Day, the regional coffee chain has partnered with the Civic Alliance to provide paid time off for a full day for any employee who volunteers at the polls on November 3.
In addition, on National Voter Registration Day, the company reports partnering with TurboVote to help every team member create a voting plan, ensuring they have the time and resources they need to register to vote and cast their ballot.
“By voting, we at Compass are doing our part to help shape the future of our communities and our country,” said Max Deem, VP of Compass Coffee operations, in an email. “If other companies can help facilitate their people to become civically engaged, we encourage them to join us!”
Every location of the international chicken chain distributes voter registration forms and voter resource flyers. The company reports it handed out more than 50,000 voter registration applications in stores (and takeout bags) in the course of a week in September.
Neighborhood Restaurant Group
Neighborhood Restaurant Group represents over a dozen restaurants across the DMV, including Red Apron, Buzz Bakery, and their newest venture The Roost, a food hall in Capitol Hill. In addition to signing on to the Time to Vote initiative, NRG Principal Michael Babin says the company is providing employees with voter-specific resources and encouraging employees to reach out to their own networks to get out the vote.
“While we’ve always been vocal with our employees about the importance of voting, this year there is even more at stake as fundamental issues like fair and equal treatment under the law, voting rights, and the basic competence of the government are all on the ballot,” Babin says. “For all of these reasons and so many more, it’s our responsibility to do whatever we can to break down any barriers that stand between a potential voter and getting to the polls.”
Pizza to the Polls
This nonpartisan nonprofit crowdsources reports of long lines at polling places and sends in trucks with free food to bolster voters. Uber Eats is sending out 180 trucks in 25 cities to deliver free food from Vote Early Day (October 24) to Election Day. D.C. trucks will dispense food from Milk Bar and Shake Shack.
The hit salad chain that began in a tiny space in Georgetown has not only expanded to over 100 locations nationwide, but it has also signed on to the “When We All Vote” initiative, a non-profit organization with a mission to increase participation in every election. In August, the company announced its pledge to give its employees paid time off to vote on Election Day.
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