New prize giveaways to help downtown Durham businesses struggling for customers

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- COPA, a Cuban-inspired restaurant in downtown Durham, will celebrate its fourth anniversary next month with no profit.

Elizabeth Turnbull co-owns the place with her husband and said the pandemic, supply shortages, and winter weather have forced them to pivot and change so many times.

"The guest service we offer is full of sincere gratitude because we are so grateful for every person that comes there, the food that's coming out of the kitchen is the best we ever produced, the menu is the most creative and there's no one there to enjoy it," said Turnbull, who is 38 weeks pregnant with her second child.

Their foot traffic is shrinking.

It's another setback as their loans and debts taken out to stay afloat are coming due.

"I think the part that makes it so painful from a personal perspective is we can see a way out. We can see the path out but we don't know if we can survive to make it," said Turnbull.

Fasil Tesfaye is suffering the same outlook.

The father of two owns, manages, and now serves his own customers at Goorsha Restaurant and Gojo Coffee in downtown Durham.

Since last month, he says business is down 70%.

"This is what pays for my family. This is for the community," said Tesfaye.

Nicole Thompson, president and CEO of Downtown Durham Inc. says all 185 businesses in the urban area are seeing fewer customers.

She described the issue as traumatic.

DDI and businesses are meeting with city leaders to find more resources.

Thompson says what will help these businesses right now is people.

"You're working remotely, come have a cup of coffee, have a couple of meetings, start convening outdoors, indoors. They just need people coming in, people shopping, eating, spending money," said Thompson.

To encourage this, DDI is launching Downtown Durham Feast on Valentine's Day.

Everyone who eats and drinks at a downtown business can turn in their receipts to DDI's office for prizes. Like a luxury hotel stay, gift cards and other prizes.

There will be two drawings, one for the general public and for a specific group.

Here's the schedule for the bonus grand prize:

  • Week 1, Feb. 14-20: First Responders & K-12 Teachers
  • Week 2, Feb. 21-27: Downtown Employees/Office Workers
  • Week 3, Feb. 28 - March 6: College and University Students
  • Week 4, March 7-13: Downtown Residents (including neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the downtown Business Improvement District)


"If you go to five different restaurants you can send in 5 different receipts and then you'd be put into that drawing five different times," Thompson said.

The giveaways end March 13.

You can submit receipts on the DDI website.
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