By Michael S. Lockett
As local restaurants are bowed by the pressure of COVID-19 mitigation measures, some of Juneau’s restaurants have closed their doors for good.
“I’m trying to do whatever I can to help out local restaurants,” said Karen Smith, a Juneau resident, who saw the shuttering of favorites such as Kitchen of Thai Curries. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we gotta support our restaurants.’”
So Smith, after mulling some ideas on social media, went ahead and created a Juneau Restaurant Bingo card featuring 63 of Juneau’s eateries in an effort to encourage support for local restaurants.
“It was kind of a spur of the moment idea. It took a month to get it up and going,” Smith said in a phone interview. “I have them marked so it shows if they’re open breakfast, lunch or dinner.”
Smith personally designed and printed 1,700 bingo cards at Alaska Litho, with funding for a thousand donated by Marc Wheeler, owner of Coppa. Smith said she conceptualized and executed the idea in October and November, distributing the cards to participating businesses in late November.
“It’s just a one-man show,” Smith said. “It’s just me and I work full time as a nurse practitioner.”
Smith said many owners were initially leery, trying to see what she was getting out of it. Smith is not making any money from the bingo, she said: she’s just trying to help out local eateries.
“They said, “I don’t understand what’s in it for you,”” Smith said. “Their guard was up, these small businesses. I can’t blame em.”
Others took it and ran with it, with some even getting custom stickers printed to use as card markers.
“I’m really excited about it. I think it’s a great idea,” said Venietia “V” Santana, owner of V’s Cellar Door, in a phone interview. “So far it’s been OK. I don’t think the word is all the way out.”
Eventually most, though not all, of Juneau’s restaurants piled on. Many contributed gift cards to their businesses, Smith said, allowing the bingo to have prizes.
“The prizes were gift cards to the restaurants or schwag. The gift cards would be to restaurants you haven’t already eaten at,” Smith said. “The restaurants have been great. I’ve got enough that we’re good for a couple months. We’re gonna have to start having more drawings.”
Smith said she considered rising numbers when coming up with it, and any food purchased in any fashion counts for the rules.
“They can do it curbside, delivery, or in-house. However they get V’s, they can play,” Santana said. “It allows people to get involved without sticking their necks out. We all chipped in and gave her prizes. I think I gave out some free tacos for whoever wins.”
Santana said that Dish Dash now offered an option on their ordering interface for requesting either V’s Cellar Door’s custom bingo stickers or the initial bingo card. Other restaurants had requested the option be placed in their online menus as well, Smith said, but she hadn’t heard how many had the option yet.
Smith said she’s also working on developing an app for it, though she said it may be some time before that’s rolled out.
Ready to get eating?
The rules and drawings are on the the Juneau Restaurant Bingo Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/JuneauRestaurantBingo, along with a list of participating establishments. Bingo cards can be acquired at any participating restaurant. Photos of cards will be submitted on the Facebook for the prizes, according to the rules.