Don’t you wish you could go to Hawker Fare in the Mission and have a Mai Thai right now? Or sip a purple pineapple daiquiri from Old Devil Moon in Bernal Heights? Well, you can ... sort of. Many Bay Area bars and restaurants are serving beer, wine and cocktails to go, in addition to food, even while people are ordered to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
The team at Coast, a messaging app for deskless workers, recently launched a project to increase awareness of the bars and restaurants offering takeout food and cocktails. The interactive map, called Takeout COVID, shows more than 800 restaurants in the Bay Area, including many like Saru Sushi, Birdsong and The Kon-Tiki, that began doing takeout orders for the first time in order to stay in business amid social distancing restrictions.
The app launched in the Bay Area, but it’s now available in New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, Austin, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and a growing number of cities throughout the country.
Many of Coast’s regular customers are hospitality workers, and soon after the Bay Area initiated the shelter in place order, they began suffering. “We heard our customers saying, ‘we need help,’” said Rohit Prakash, co-founder and CEO of Coast. Prakash realized that a lot of restaurants were offering takeout and alcoholic drinks to go, but because they’d never done it before, no one knew it was an option.
“Our goal is to ensure that businesses are able to stay afloat and survive during this,” Prakash said. He and his team quickly got to work on the Takeout COVID map, initially reaching out to their existing bar and restaurant customers. But since the project gained traction last week, Prakash said, many restaurants have been reaching out to Coast directly, asking to join the map.
A perfect storm of factors had to come together to make Takeout COVID possible so quickly, Prakash said. First, the state of California temporarily altered liquor laws to help businesses in the service industry. All bars and restaurants that currently hold an alcoholic beverage control license (ABC) are allowed to sell alcoholic drinks in manufacturer-sealed containers to customers for off-site consumption.
However, businesses that have kitchen facilities and prepare food on-site are also permitted to sell alcoholic beverages to go without a pre-sealed lid, as long as the drink has “a secure lid or cap in a manner designed to prevent consumption without the removal of the lid or cap,” according to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The drinks must also be sold along with a food order.
This exception to the law was crucial to putting the project in motion, as was help from another tech entrepreneur, Philip Thomas, who has also worked closely with the hourly workforce and small businesses throughout his career. Thomas founded Staffjoy in 2015, an app that helps hospitality and retail businesses make and share schedules with hourly workers.
Thomas, who lives in Brooklyn, noticed that many local bars and restaurants in his area had begun opening their expensive wine and liquor cellars to keep up cash flow. He initially launched an interactive map called Cellars.NYC, but then joined forces with Prakash on Takeout COVID, and the two sites merged.
Between Thomas and the Coast team, Takeout COVID was developed and launched very quickly. The website was built using Vue.js, Nuxt.js and Tailwind CSS. The map itself uses the Google Maps API.
Coast is slowly getting feedback from bars and restaurants using the map on how it’s helping their business, but the response so far has been positive. Hawker Fare replied to Takeout COVID on one of their Instagram posts saying “Thanks for the support! We appreciate the shout out!”
And when Prakash showed the owner of Akaisaru Sushi in San Francisco the Takeout COVID demo site, he replied, “If this works, it’s going to save families.”