The Lincoln Road Business Improvement District (BID) and the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival® are teaming up to help local small businesses recover from COVID losses and encourage people to come back to the iconic street. Starting in January and running each month leading up to this year’s festival in May, SOBEWFF® founder Lee Brian Schrager will curate groups of food vendors for a monthly outdoor marketplace of prepared foods and baked goods.
Schrager and the BID have both made a point to help local businesses devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. In March, after a call with local chefs, Schrager came up with a new twist on the community bake sale. Every Sunday, from the end of March through the middle of June, cars lined up at his home in Coral Gables to purchase goods from local restaurants through a contactless bake sale. That effort led to the creation of the SOBEWFF® & FIU Chaplin School Hospitality Industry Relief Fund which has raised over $2 million. A partnership with Miami-Dade County resulted in a $5 million grant program to help employees of independently owned food and beverage establishments in the County. Thanksgiving and now December holiday meals from local restaurants were added to the culinary program. (If you want to order a holiday meal, you’ll need to hurry… deadline is Sunday, December 20 at noon.)
The BID has created a number of outdoor, socially distanced activities to position Lincoln Road as “that really interesting place to go,” said Lyle Stern, President of Koniver Stern Group, a retail leasing and consulting company that owns and operates properties on Lincoln Road. Stern, who also serves on the Board of the Lincoln Road BID, has focused his energy on offerings that will bring locals and guests back to the street and to businesses trying to recover from COVID closures and limited occupancy rules. The BID has continued to add to its successful Workout in the Sky programming in the 1111 building’s open-air parking garage, partnered with the New World Symphony on its Musicians in Golf Carts effort to provide roving entertainment one weekend a month, and recently brought the popular Salty Donut and El Bagel Food Trucks for weekend pop ups on the street. The BID also launched a partnership with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens for a self-guided walking tour of Lincoln Road’s natural bounty of plant life. (For list of events and schedule, visit the Lincoln Road BIB website.)
Stern contacted Schrager about ways to attract some of the SOBEWFF® crowd to Lincoln Road and, after giving it some thought, Stern said Schrager came back with the “spectacular idea” of the series of food marketplaces as a way of “engaging the community on a regular basis” leading up to the main event.
“Nothing brings people together like food,” Schrager said. “It’s a common denominator. Not everybody goes to the New World Symphony. Not everybody goes to the ballet. Not everybody goes to see hockey. But everybody eats.”
Schrager said he’ll look to small local vendors and people he’s worked with at SOBEWFF® over the years for the Lincoln Road marketplace. “We don’t need to use people who are doing incredible,” he said. “It will be mom or pop people who really could use the exposure and use the business, a mix of mom and pop and small places, people who have the best empanadas or babka.” And, it won’t always be the same, he said. “I think that’s the beauty of it. We’ll change it out.”
Schrager expects the next few months “are going to be very trying” for the restaurant industry and he sees the Lincoln Road marketplace as “an opportunity to get people to Lincoln Road and to get people to vendors in our city.” He knows things will begin to change as more people are vaccinated but, in the meantime, he urges everyone to dine out “if you’re comfortable” but, if not, buy gift cards and order takeout or delivery from local restaurants.
Schrager’s remembrances of what he calls “one of the most iconic streets in the country” go back fifty years when he’d walk with his grandparents up and down Lincoln Road. “Hopefully,” through the marketplace, “we’ll bring people back to Lincoln Road who have not been back there and hopefully create awareness of these small businesses,” he said.
The monthly event will coincide with the Sunday Antiques Market, kicking off on January 24 then running again on February 28, March 28, and April 28. May is TBD as the festival, which normally is held in February, was delayed to May 20-23 due to the pandemic.
The BID will pick up the administrative costs for the non-profit SOBEWFF® team along with the costs of tables and tents for the restaurant booths and security and hopes to work with the City on fee waivers.
Photo: Customers wait at the El Bagel food truck pop up on Lincoln Road, courtesy Lyle Stern
SOBEWFF® Partners with Lincoln Road BID to Showcase Small Food Businesses in Months Leading up to Annual Festival
SOBEWFF® Partners with Lincoln Road BID to Showcase Small Food Businesses in Months Leading up to Annual Festival:
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