Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Smoke This Rib Fest was launched in 2010 by the East Cambridge Business Association. (Photo: Kyle Klein)

This year will be the 12th Annual Smoke This Rib Fest produced by the East Cambridge Business Association.

We made the difficult decision this week to turn this year’s event into a two-week barbecue crawl instead of a one-day event. Similar to last year, you will be able to enjoy ribs and barbecue for a two-week stretch at each of our participating restaurants. This format will allow people to participate however they feel most comfortable, whether that is indoors, al fresco or via takeout. Follow us on Instagram at @EastCambBiz, on Facebook or at EastCambridgeBA.com to hear more about the specials and participating restaurants.

Please get out and support our restaurants directly for this year’s Smoke This Rib Fest between Sept. 24 and Oct. 10.

We also want to thank our annual sponsors who make Rib Fest possible each year. Their continued support allows us to do the hard work to support our small-business community all year long.

When we launched this event in 2010, our goal was to produce a quality event that was restaurant-centric and provided an opportunity for the neighborhood to experience their longtime favorites as well as the new restaurants opening in East Cambridge, Kendall Square and Inman Square, all at an accessible price point.

We truly felt we could host a safe, in-person festival this year. But we were not confident that we could produce a Rib Fest up to the standards that people expect.

Folks, you really need to hear this: Things are not good.

The restaurant industry is in shambles. Restaurants are severely understaffed and doing a fraction of their typical sales. Even the ones you think “look busy” are probably not okay.

Small businesses still need your support. The negative impacts of this pandemic are not over by any stretch of the imagination. When you hear “small business,” translate that in your head to “my family member,” “my friend” or “the family next door,” because that’s what this means. “Small business” isn’t some amorphous corporate structure in which paychecks show up in your bank account every payday; these are community members who have poured everything into making their own way and took chances that have resulted in tangible benefits to our community and our neighborhoods. They employ our neighbors and friends. And our communities will inevitably be affected by a second round of closings.

The federal government’s Restaurant Relief Fund was supposed to rescue this industry, but it provided funds to only 30 percent of the eligible restaurants. Seven out of 10 of your favorite restaurants got no federal relief to help keep them in business, even though they met all of the requirements.

The fund needs to be refunded. Contact U.S. Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren. Contact U.S. Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Katherine Clark to tell them.

Contact our state delegation (Sens. Sal DiDomenico and Pat Jehlen and Reps. Mike Connolly, Marjorie Decker, Jay Livingston, Steve Owens and Dave Rogers) and tell them we need a portion of the American Rescue Plan Act funding – federal relief funds being considered for distribution – to be allocated to help the restaurant industry survive and to prioritize those who haven’t received help.

Lastly, please, please support our local independent businesses and restaurants. They absolutely need you and they will greatly appreciate your business.

Jason Alves is executive director of the East Cambridge Business Association, and Patrick Magee is its president.