ASHLAND – In an attempt to boost restaurants and breweries impacted by COVID-19, the Ashland Economic Development Authority agreed last Thursday to help through an Outdoor Heating Assistance Program.
Joe Topham, the town’s business retention and expansion manager, said the heaters will make using patios “livable” for November and December. “We can cover all the cost or most of the cost for them.”
“I think it’s a relatively modest step,” he said. “We can help some of our restaurants, who, quite frankly, don’t have a lot of cash right now.”
He did point out that the funding is available to those restaurants and breweries that support the town’s meal tax.
Topham said the restaurant or brewery seeking a heater “has to be current with all local tax and business license.”
A question pertaining to assisting non-profits, the Ashland Museum or the Ashland Theatre arose. Topham explained they must limit funding to ensure the $20,400 appropriation. That amount, he continued, would “cover each one (restaurants and breweries) up to that now.
Each business would be eligible for $1,200 to purchase outdoor heating devices, upp to a maximum of $300 per heating device.
In seeking approval from the EDA, Topham said he “felt comfortable with this. Plainly speaking, we collect meals tax from restaurants – ultimately, [they] pay the town back.”
The goal of the Outdoor Heating Assistance Program is to aid in social distancing so that patrons of town restaurants and breweries may be safely served as the seasons change during the pandemic.
Seating capacity has been reduced indoors, and some patrons still have concerns about indoor seating.
For more information on the program, visit the Office of Economic Development at 121 Thompson St. or call 804-798-1073, fax 804-798-4892 or go to www.ashlandva.gov.
The next meeting of the EDA will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, at Ashland Town Hall.