DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Fourteen downtown Durham businesses will receive grant funding to help them battle through the pandemic. The nonprofit Renaissance Downtown Durham, associated with Downtown Durham, is awarding almost $30,000 in grants to these businesses.
The money can be used by businesses as a reimbursement for costs or investments associated with the pandemic. Initially, Downtown Durham only had enough funds to cover 12 of the business, but it sought out more funding to cover all 14 businesses.
Durty Bull Brewing Company is among those getting help. It’s been a challenging time for the brewery.
“Whenever we think we have one thing figured out, we learn something new,” said Matt Pennisi, owner and manager of Durty Bull Brewing Company.
Pennisi said they’ve made changes at every turn.
“We have to constantly shift and adapt and pivot our business every which way,” Pennisi said.
Changes made included cutting down on seating and requiring masking along with vaccination cards for people going inside. Outdoor dining space was also created.
More recently, Pennisi installed a new heated tent to offer an option to warmly and safely gather outside.
“We have can have a wide-open door, constant flow of air, and more of a safe seating environment with a slight bit of temperature control so it stays nice and toasty in there for the winter,” Pennisi said.
The tent was paid for through a grant from Renaissance Downtown Durham.
“It’s such a relief, just to not have to think about how many beers it takes and how many customers just to cover the outdoor seating and all the improvements,” he said.
Of the nearly $30,000 in grant funds, $25,000 came from the Hometown Revitalization Grant from Duke Energy Foundation. The remaining $2,500 came from Renaissance Downtown Durham Strong’s grant program. Nine of the 14 businesses are women-owned businesses and six went to minority-owned businesses. The money can be used to reimburse businesses for past costs or future investments.
“Any kind of help that they can get, no matter how small I think lets them know that we appreciate them,” said Downtown Durham CEO Nicole Thompson.
But the support of customers continues to be crucial.
“Office workers have not come back yet. They’re still working remotely. It’s impacting the small businesses because they don’t have that typical breakfast coffee, patronage, or the business lunch, or the catching up after work,” Thompson said.
While the future is unclear, Pennisi said they’ll be ready.
“Support local businesses. Support your favorite takeout and keep the customers alive,” he said.