Dining Out Debate, Pt. One - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Dining Out Debate, Pt. One

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SALISBURY, Md. - You may have noticed that a few new restaurants have opened their doors in Salisbury, while some familiar faces have said good bye.

"It seems like the chains are outweighing local businesses," Olivia Overton said. The Salisbury resident has noticed a trend.

"I've seen so many local businesses that I love, such as Zia's, closing down ... just being overrun by larger businesses and companies."

Zias was a member of the Local Owner Restaurant Association, and president David Wharton says its members are struggling.

"These people are ... suffering from four years of the bad economy," said Wharton, owner of Cakes By David.

And every time a new eatery opens, he says it's a "honeymoon" period where customers try out the new restaurants, leaving the older ones to suffer.

"You look at restaurants ... loosing fifteen percent of their bottom line for about six weeks," Wharton said. And that can be compounded with a new establishment opening every few months.

That loss can have a real impact. Six locally owned shops have closed their doors in the last eight months.

And that's money lost to Salisbury. He says 47 cents of every dollar spent at local eateries goes right back into the community when restaurants pay for food, supplies and staff -- found right in the area.

On top of a growing field of food options and competitive pricing, the Wicomico County Council recently voted to raise restaurant license renewal fees $50 for small shops and $150 for larger ones.     
But, the struggle hasn't gone unnoticed. County Executive Rick Pollitt says they're working to help promote success.

"Small business is the backbone of our country," Pollitt said. "Anything we can do to assist the small business owners with a leg up ... then we want to be able to do that as well."

There are more than 500 places in Wicomico County certified for food service.  That includes restaurants, hotels and even some churches, and each of them has a stake in the food competition.

In the second and final part of this series, we'll take a look at why the county is supporting the growth, and what it's doing to help small businesses stay a float.

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