This article was published in 2020 as part of our COVID-19 Resource Center series. This article will not be updated but please contact us if you have specific questions regarding the information in this article.

Local businesses are the heart and soul of Austin just as much as Barton Springs, Lake Travis, and Zilker Park. Austin is the taco trucks, the Rainey Street Bars, South Congress (South Austin’s) quirky shops, and the farmers’ markets. Without these local businesses, Austin will lose an important part of what makes it special. 

In the midst of COVID-19, restaurants and bars have had to close and with the mandated shelter-in-place even more, businesses have been forced to alter business operations. With this in mind, and as a local business ourselves, AQUILA feels it our responsibility to help our fellow local businesses in every way possible.


Ways to Support Local Businesses

During this uncertain time, I encourage Austinites to support Austin’s local businesses so they will continue to exist after this crisis has passed. I also believe it’s important to practice what I preach.

Personally, I have made an effort to order to-go from my favorite coffee shop twice a day. I encourage my friends and colleagues to support their favorite restaurants and shops as well (curbside or drive-through, of course) if they are comfortable doing it. And don’t forget to tip the staff generously, if you are able.

Juan Pelota Cafe, my favorite place to grab coffee, is offering curbside pick-up.

These local businesses are there for us in our day-to-day lives, and many of us, myself included, take that for granted. They provide entertainment and convenience, they help us unwind, and they make Austin the city we know and love. 

Let’s return the favor and help them. 

Everyone is hurting right now, and we are all trying to navigate these difficult circumstances, but no one is going through this alone.

For those who have the means, here are several easy ways to support these local businesses: 

1. Eat Local

Everyone has to eat, so if you can, make it a point to order from a local restaurant at least once a week. 

Personally, I eat out quite a lot, and this is a great way we can help. From fine dining to food trucks, all local restaurants need our support. With the Governor of Texas bending the rules for what restaurants can do with drinks and alcohol, we can also extend our support to local bars. Delivery and drive-through service is a great way for these bars and restaurants to weather the storm. 

How to support local Austin businesses

Many of Austin’s restaurants and bars are now offering curbside and delivery. Photo courtesy of El Arroyo.

2. Shop Local

On the other hand, it’s harder to know how to help local shops right now. People aren’t shopping for non-essential items and are going online for other needs. 

One thing we can do is buy gift cards from local shops to use in the future. If you know you’ll buy something from somewhere once this distancing is over, go ahead and buy a gift card to use in the future. 

Or, if you have a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary coming up, shop now and shop local. Lots of local boutiques have some sort of online presence set up or are pivoting to have one now.

At the end of the day, we all have to work together to get through this and help in any way we can. You can find links with more ways to help our local businesses (and how to get help) at the end of this article.

3. Support Service Industry & Musicians

Do you have a favorite local bar or a go-to Austin restaurant? Check their social media to find out ways you can help. Lots of restaurants and bars are raising funds for their staff while they are closed. For example, FBR, a locally owned and operated hospitality company in Austin, Texas has virtual tip jars for the bars and restaurants they manage. Some restaurants are also offering free meals to those in the service industry or medical/emergency professionals.

Another industry that some people may overlook is the music industry. With bars and venues closed, musicians are struggling as well. Consider donating to local venues that help keep Austin music alive like Antone’s. Austin is known as the live music capital of the world, and we want to keep it that way. 

Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the world thanks to our local musicians.

4. Donate to Local Organizations

Lots of local nonprofits are still functioning to serve their communities with much more limited resources from food and supplies to time and money. Consider making annual donations early or redirecting money you’re saving from staying in to these types of organizations.


More Ways to Help Austin’s Local Businesses

There are a number of groups compiling lists of ways to give back to the Austin community. Here are a few that we’ve found to be helpful:


Why It’s Important

Ultimately, we need to do what we can to help Austin businesses through this tough time. No amount of support is too small. Supporting local businesses can help everyone weather the storm and get through this faster, and that’s important.

Austin has a soul and a spirit that is molded by our local businesses. They are a big part of what makes Austin – Austin. The thing I hear most from people about Austin is how friendly people are here. I truly believe that our restaurants, bars, and other local businesses are the faces of that hospitality.

As a community, it is our responsibility to come together to make sure the people and businesses that make Austin the dynamic place that it is today don’t get left behind.

As an Austin-based company, we’ve also turned to the Austin Chamber of Commerce to find out exactly what we can be doing to support local businesses through this trying time. Visit the Chamber’s COVID-19 page to learn more ways to support Austin’s businesses. 

Bart Matheney | Commercial Real Estate Leasing Broker in Austin, TX | AQUILA Commercial

Bart Matheney

Bart Matheney is one of AQUILA’s founding principals and has been a major player in the Austin commercial real estate industry for decades.

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