Tacoma's new searchable database to support local businesses during new COVID-19 restrictions

The City of Tacoma will launch a new search engine to offer support and funding for local businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The searchable database, Celebrate Tacoma, will highlight restaurants, retailers, and service businesses within city limits.

The original idea for the database was to help community members find impacted businesses to support this holiday season. However, due to new COVID-19 statewide restrictions, storeowners said the launch of the search engine could not have come at a more critical time.

“Tacoma is a more tight-knit community and they band together to help out the businesses,” said Jim Irvine, owner of Abella Pizzeria. “It has been unprecedented the support that this city and the state and the county has done for us. And the restaurants around here. Without that, there would be even more people not making it through this.”

City officials are putting the final touches on the database and when it’s finished, patrons can filter their selections in the restaurant, retail, and service categories. Some of the filters will include businesses owned by minorities, veterans, and families. Patrons can also search for pet-friendly businesses in the database.   

Elly Walkowiak is the assistant director for the city’s Community and Economic Development Department. She said the search engine is another opportunity for the community to continue its incredible spirit of giving, as seen during the last seven months of the pandemic. 

Walkowiak said with the new restrictions ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee, several businesses and staff will be depending on the “power of the purse” to survive.

Sean Brown is picking up all the hours he can at the Lobster Shop in Tacoma to support his family.

“It’s the toughest time I’m hoping I never have to go through in my life,” said Brown.

After his wife lost her job during the first statewide shutdown in the pandemic, Brown said he’s concerned about what this second round of closures could mean for him.

“I’m extremely worried. I have anxiety and stress every day. I started meditating since this all happened just to help me with that,” said Brown.

The restaurant and bar industry will feel the pinch once again as they prepare to re-close dine-in service. It’s one of the many restrictions the state is rolling back to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“People are scared to go out,” said Rida Reed, manager at Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max in Tacoma.

She said that fear continues impacting business at the restaurant. Reed said the restaurant decided to offer free delivery hoping to entice customers after hearing the state’s latest announcement. However, she said she worries if that will be enough to help pay the bills.

“With what’s going on, it’s hard to even gauge where we’re going to be next week,” said Reed. “We’re just changing as the time changes, changing as this whole pandemic is changing everything.”

Walkowiak said the goal of Celebrate Tacoma is to help save the city’s economy and jobs like Brown’s. Though he is working hard under pressure, Brown said he understands why the state doesn’t want him and others serving indoors for a while.

“It’s a bummer, but it feels necessary. The numbers are ridiculous. It obviously hurts me financially, my livelihood. I love this place, I hope we’re able to come back at some point. But it feel like it has to happen,” said Brown. “I just hope that we all can come together as a people and try to get COVID-19 out of here. Whatever we have to do to do it, I’m willing to do. I want to be around my family and experience life the way that it should be.”

The city hopes to launch the database by the end of the week. Any business within Tacoma city limits that would like to be included in the search engine is welcome to sign up.