If Jeffrey Weiss and Paras Shah had 2020 their way, Valencian Gold would have reopened after it went through a remodel and menu swap in the spring. The restaurant that specializes in paella closed before the state ordered restaurants and bars to close and turn to takeout and delivery to prevent the spread of COVID-19 back in March. The restaurateurs planned to renovate their restaurant in the southwest to include more tapas, a liquor license for cocktails, additional paella options, and even a patio.
“Valencian Gold started out as a fast-casual restaurant that just happened to be Spanish but, in our hearts, Valencian Gold was always meant to be a full-blooded Spanish experience more than anything,” Weiss says.
While the restaurant remains closed, Weiss and Shah instead turned to donating food to health-care workers and first responders, and making dishes for a nonprofit meal delivery service. Early in the pandemic, the two started baking New York bagels, with a buy a dozen, donate a dozen policy for first responder organizations. The duo ended up donating more than 12,000 bagels on top of selling out almost every single day. Those bagels might make a comeback.
“We didn’t make a lot of money or anything, but we made a lot of people happy,” Weiss says. “And even if just one of our bagels made it into the hands of an overworked doctor or nurse and brightened their day then it was 100 percent worth the 3 a.m. morning bake sessions and sheet pan arm burns.”
Once Delivering with Dignity contacted them, they stopped making bagels to focus on cooking community meals instead. The program, which delivers meals to Las Vegas families most susceptible to COVID-19 — namely grandparents caring for small children — takes perishable excess food from businesses and restaurants and makes community meals. The program started in March.
Weiss says Valencian Gold served more than 50,000 meals out of the Valencian Gold kitchens. “These are soulful meals like beef stew, chicken pot pie, Cuban picadillo, meatloaf, and even full Thanksgiving dinners that reach the most vulnerable members of our local community, and we couldn’t be prouder to stand alongside Honey Salt, Graffiti Bao, and The Jolt to make this program possible.” Since March, the program served 250,000 meals.
As for Valencian Gold reopening, Weiss and Shah say they will wait. On Sunday, the state decided to extend its COVID-19 restrictions until January 15, limiting restaurants to 25 percent capacity, requiring mandatory reservations, and setting tables of no more than four diners. “Yes, it would be accurate to say that if there was no pandemic we would have both refurbished and reopened Valencian Gold sooner,” Weiss says.
But Weiss says while the state’s restrictions are necessary to “defeat COVID and get back to normal levels of business and safety,” the federal government needs to step in to help. “The sheer negligence by our federal legislators — who have turned their backs on our businesses, and who have left us all without a lifeline while we face these crippling conditions — is unacceptable, outrageous, and cowardly,” he says. “While Washington dithers, insurance policies have been rendered worthless; rent is expected to be paid in full despite limited occupancy; and evictions are waved over business owners’ heads like an executioner’s axe.
“Now is the time for our leaders to step up, and instead they retreat.”
The co-owners did take advantage of Clark County’s Protective Retrofit Grant that helped them purchase PPE supplies. On the state level, they used the Commercial Rental Assistance Grant to help pay rent. Through the program, a tenant is given free rent money, the landlord can cover their debts, and the bank gets their loan payment, Weiss says.
“This is what government assistance should look like. Everyone wins, and everyone has a stake in seeing each other’s successes.”
Valencian Gold still plans to reopen in 2021, with several other new projects later in the year.
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