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National Restaurant Association - Flint restaurants show support for city

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Flint restaurants show support for city

Nineteen restaurants in Flint, Mich., are banding together to show consumers dining out there is fun and delicious.

The first Flint Restaurant Week follows the water crisis that overtook the city 18 months ago. Organized by restaurant managers Spencer Ruegsegger and Ken Laatz, and funded by the Greater Flint Arts Council, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Michigan Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association, the event will run May 17 through 21.

“The restaurant community in Flint has been a beacon of light, showing true leadership during a difficult time,” said Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the MRA. “They reflect the heart and resilience of the city, and the MRA is honored to support Flint Restaurant Week.”

The restaurants will offer new items and signature dishes, and diners can track the restaurants they visit on special “passports.”’ If they visit enough restaurants, they’ll qualify for a special prize.

The participating restaurants will donate part of their proceeds to the Hurley Children’s Center, which has treated children with health problems related to the lead in the water.

“The water crisis has been challenging, but it’s also made us stronger business owners, neighbors and friends,” Ruegsegger, of Blackstone’s Pub & Grill, said. “We’re committed to helping our city come back stronger than ever before.”

Laatz, of Soggy Bottom Bar, added, “There is a level of energy and excitement that is continuing to grow in Flint. We have tremendous pride here, and this is our way to help celebrate our city.”

The participants represent a cross-section of the town’s dining scene, from bars and cafes to fine-dining restaurants and ethnic eateries – “a great mix,” he said.

Flint’s water crisis began in 2014, after the city switched water sources to reduce a water-fund shortfall. Because a new pipeline connecting Flint with the water in Lake Huron was still under construction, city officials turned to the Flint River as a temporary water source. However, the water wasn’t properly treated so lead leached into the supply.

“For restaurants like ours, cooking or attempting to offer drinking water was simply impossible,” Ruegsegger said. “But we’ve all worked hard to ensure the safety of our guests. We’ve followed safety guidelines and bought filters that eliminate contaminants from the water.”

However, Ruegsegger and Laatz said there’s more work to be done; customers have to be enticed to dine out more often.

“We’re ready to tell the world Flint’s restaurants are doing well and are great places to dine at,” Laatz said.

Pictured top, from left: Flint Restaurant Week co-founders Ken Laatz and Spencer Ruegsegger

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