Bakersfield Family Game Night has everything we expect from a local event: supporting a good cause while having a good time enjoying great food. The only difference is the location will vary by participants.
On Friday, residents are encouraged to order takeout from a local business, give the TV a rest and play a game together, then share a photo of their evening at home on social media with the hashtag #BakersfieldFamilyGameNight.
Joe Coughlin, owner of Coconut Joe's Beach Grill, said the idea sprung from different discussions.
"There was just this idea of doing something for families trapped in their homes while helping restaurants with empty seats," he wrote in an email. "No one particular person led the charge — it just kind of grass-rooted itself into existence. It went from an idea voiced by customers and others to reality in a matter of hours."
To support the movement, he is offering some $25 gift cards to be awarded randomly among participants.
Coughlin said many independent restaurant owners in Bakersfield are more often collaborators than competitors.
"I often seek out wisdom and knowledge from other owners. Two who have been especially kind over the years are Skip Slayton (Jake’s Tex Mex) and Ralph Fruguglietti (Frugatti’s). These two have been very generous to me personally and can rightfully take credit for some of our success."
All have been weathering common troubles: reducing staff, increased sanitizing and strategizing how to manage with takeout only.
The restaurateur said since his business also includes catering and events at the banquet hall that this shutdown has been especially disorienting.
"It seems like the Twilight Zone for those of us who have been so used to busily serving the hospitality industry in all three areas."
With support ranging from free banners from local print shops and radio giveaways of gift cards, Coughlin said "it has been amazing and heartwarming to see the solidarity, not simply in the restaurant community, but in the business community more generally."
On Tuesday, The Great American Takeout movement urged people to support businesses in their area. While Coughlin said he saw a boost from that, it's important to continue fostering support for local business.
"I think we are all learning a new reality. There are some of us who have worked in concert for decades, but I think this crisis will further strengthen the importance of community among owners. We need to support each other. We are all an important thread in the tapestry that is Bakersfield. Without our local eateries we become 'ANYTOWN USA.'"