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502 Black Eats Week showcases Louisville’s Black-owned restaurants

100122_502 Black Eats Week_Happy Belly Bistro Burger_by Happy Belly Bistro
Happy Belly Bistro
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Happy Belly Bistro is a returning participant for 502 Black Eats Week. The All-American Burger is one of the many items customers can get at discounted price as part of the initiative.

A variety of Black-owned restaurants in Louisville are providing discounts in the coming days as part of 502 Black Eats Week.

Dozens of participating food vendors across the city will offer the promotion to customers who mention 502 Black Eats Week.

The initiative is meant to bring more awareness to restaurants and other food industry businesses owned and operated by Black residents.

Tiandra Robinson created the weeklong event in 2020. She called it a sister to 502 Black Business Week, which tries to highlight other types of Black-owned establishments.

Robinson, who owns T. Marie Consulting, wanted to try to recreate the success of Black Business Week in response to how the pandemic was affecting the food industry.

“In 2020 when everything was shut down, of course you know, it was really hard on the restaurant industry, so it made it twice as hard on Black-owned restaurants,” Robinson said.

A report from the Brookings Institution that used Federal Reserve data found that Black-owned businesses reported financial hardships associated with the pandemic more than any other race.

Beyond facing more struggles during the pandemic, the study also said the wealth gap between Black people and other races contributes to the overall lack of Black-owned businesses nationally.

“The Black community is very underrepresented,” said Tatiana Cartwright, general manager and event coordinator at 502 Black Eats Week participant Happy Belly Bistro. “We have less resources than those of our white counterparts.”

The report states that out of nearly 5.8 million businesses with more than one employee in 2019, 2.3% were Black-owned. However, Black people make up 14.2% of the United States population.

According to the study, there are 51 Black-owned businesses in Lexington, or 1% of the city’s total businesses. In order to reflect Lexington’s Black population of 13.5%, an additional 1,525 Black businesses would need to open.

Robinson said in Louisville, Black-owned businesses account for 2.4% of the total businesses in the city, despite Black residents making up 24% of the population. She said that means it's even more important to get those places’ names out to the public.

Every year, Robinson puts out a call to businesses in the area in July to begin preparing for the week. Those selected pay a fee to participate and must offer some kind of discount to customers who mention 502 Black Eats Week.

She said by participating in these events, owners have a chance to market their business in a place other than social media.

“For a lot of Black-owned businesses, they don’t have a lot of money to put into marketing their business,” Robinson said.

Happy Belly Bistro is one of many participants returning for this year’s 502 Black Eats Week. Cartwright, the general manager, said those who have come to the restaurant because of the event have walked away happy.

She said it’s been a great way to expand Happy Belly Bistro’s reach.

“It’s very important to let people know that, hey, we’re here and we have good products, just come out and try us,” Cartwright said.

A full list of participating restaurants can be found on the 502 Black Eats Week website. The event runs from Sunday through Oct. 8.

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.