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Local restaurants looking ahead from COVID-19

Members of the community were able to voice their concerns over COVID-19 shutdown strain at a recent town hall discussion.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — COVID-19 shutdowns left many Coastal Bend business owners with challenges to overcome. Members of the community were able to voice their concerns at a recent town hall discussion.

"One of the biggest challenges recently is just finding help, hiring employees, that's been a true challenge and then you factor that with prices going up." said Texas Restaurant Association board member, May Mendoza Nardone.

"And, you know, the good news is the TRA—our Coastal Bend TRA—we try to be there for our members and for any restaurant," said Nardone.

As restaurants continue to recover from COVID-19 shutdowns, the local branch of the Texas Restaurant Association met with state representative Todd Hunter to voice their concerns and show support for local business owners. 

Hosting the meeting at Del Mar College also had another purpose. 

"The culinary program that they have is going to be the future for the restaurant industry," TRA chair Glen Mier explained.

"So, we want to support the program that they're having and they're going to be moving to a new campus. And so we had it here so we could showcase some of the students and what they're doing." 

One of those students is Kimberly Ramirez, who will finish her culinary program in May. She received a scholarship from the Coastal Bend TRA to prepare her for her next step. 

"It means a lot. You know, going into this industry, you need a lot of tools so you can gain the knowledge you have during college."

"Tools are expensive and if I have what I need then I'll be able to contribute to the culinary program a bit better once I get some money," said Ramirez.

Ramirez's scholarship will help her pursue her dream of opening her own restaurant business. As for future students in her program, they have a new facility to look forward to at Del Mar's Oso Creek Campus.

Ramirez told us that, "Just knowing that the new building has all of these cool features and that everyone will have space to their own craft and learn the best that they can, I think that's incredibly important. It's amazing, I am very excited for the new students coming in." 

To help get local restaurants back on their feet, coastal Bend TRA will host an event on Monday called "Flavors of the Coastal Bend" in Port Aransas. 

Related: Flavors of the Coastal Bend gives a taste of local cuisine

It's one of the many ways it tries to look out for its members and promote the local restaurant industry as they move on from the last couple years.

"It's just a great opportunity for our restaurants to come together and show our community that we're back in business, we're ready," said Nardone.

"Some of them have changed some of the menus, so it's a great opportunity for you to come out, sample a little bit of your favorite cuisines." 

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