SOUTH PORTLAND — The COVID-19 situation has many staying indoors and overlooking restaurant options, but SoPo To-Go, a new initiative from the economic development, hasn’t forgotten local favorites.

SoPo To-Go helps remind residents that local eateries are still open for delivery and/or curbside pickup, said William Mann, economic development director.

Each Friday through June, the initiative will reward a random winner who has submitted $50 worth of receipts from South Portland restaurants that are participating, said Tess Parks, economic development associate. The winner will receive $100 in gift cards to local restaurants, breweries, and cafes.

“We were looking for a way to remind the community that many of these businesses are still open, still operating delivery, curbside pickup,” Mann said. “Whether they’re local or a national franchise, these folks are all our neighbors and the employees are all our neighbors and friends. (We’re ) just reminding the community that these options are available because they might not realize it from staying at home.

“Many, many restaurants are open and the idea was to see what we could do to provide awareness of that. This seemed like a good way to use limited resources.”

Over 25 South Portland restaurants are participating, according to the South Portland Economic Development Facebook page. Those interested in participating can check the page to see which places are involved, said Parks.

As the COVID-19 situation continues, restaurants in the area, such as the Titled Kilt, which was on Gorham Road in South Portland, have announced permanent closure.

Mann said that he and Parks have been happy to help local places through the hardship.

“There are certain bakeries or ice cream places or restaurants where, when you come into a community, there’s always a go-to location, and we think that it’s important,” Mann said.

Local restaurants, breweries, etc. interested in joining the program, should reach out to SoPo To-Go at [email protected] in order to participate, Mann said.

“We’ve had a number of restaurants and breweries saying that they’re happy we’re starting the initiative, and I think they’re pretty happy that we’re raising awareness and reaching out,” Parks said. “It seems like a small effort, but when many people contribute, it can be a big effort.”

An announcement for SoPo To-Go’s launch said that Mayor Katherine Lewis thanked the South Portland Economic Development Department as well as other city staff for all they have done to support the city’s operations.

“This is one small but hopefully powerful initiative to give people incentives support the food and
beverage establishments that are so important to our community,” Lewis said. “It’s a way to encourage residents in our caring and responsible city to help the businesses and workers who give our city strength and nourishment. Plus, the potential winning draw of $100 each week gives us something fun and positive to look forward to, which we could all use during this very unsettling time.”

Besides Facebook, there’s a link on how to participate in the initiative at South Portland’s website, www.southportland.org/departments/economic-and-community-development/sopo-go/.

In spite of the tough time falling upon many, residents are still trying their best to help one another out, Mann said.

“We can’t do it all, but if we each do what we can, it all adds up and can make a big difference,” he said. “We have seen so many examples of businesses stepping up in this community during challenging times. This is just one small piece of all kinds of good stories that are occurring as well as donations and acts of kindness. A lot of people are struggling, and not everyone can participate but those who can, on behalf of restaurants and the community, it’s pretty gratifying.”

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