RICHMOND, Va. -- Jason Alley has had a notable career in Richmond restaurants. When it opened, his restaurant comfort was credited with breathing new life into downtown Richmond and helping put the city on the country's culinary map.
So when Richmond went looking for a person to help map a road to recovery for Richmond restaurants, both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, Alley answered the call.
"The intent and desire from the city has always been, or at least, you know, within several years, it's to do good, it's to help. The city is not in the business of just impeding people's lives. But admittedly, on their side, they don't always know what that help is, either what it is, or the best way to do it, how to get it out. So, you know, I think that there's some messaging from the city side to the business community, that, you know, we are here to help, that's our job," Alley said. "And then on the other side of that line of communication is trying to talk to the city about the things that are frustrating in the business community, the things that have been impediments, that have been hurdles, so that we can move things a little bit faster. So you know, it's an opportunity for me to be able to flex some intellectual and creative muscles in ways that have happened before. To really figure out what these barriers are, and then how to attack those barriers. How do we make sure this stuff happens."
In addition to talking about his new role at City Hall and what Richmond is doing to help restaurants and other small businesses survive the pandemic, Alley also opens up about his personal recovery from alcohol addiction and how he is helping others find a path to sobriety, one day at a time, through a group called Ben's Friends.
"Nothing is as moving and seeing these people who were like, 'I was drunk yesterday. And I don't want to be drunk anymore. And so I'm here.' To do that is a huge step. To do that, in a global pandemic, with tremendous social unrest, and whatever the f*** was going on with the presidency and like, all of this stuff, right? I mean, I feel fairly strongly that I might not have made it out of 2020 if I wasn't sober. I might have drunk myself to death," he said. "So to see these people is, I mean, they're just f***ing superheroes. It's incredible. One of our local guys came to his first meeting loaded. And the next day, everything shut down. And he's been sober since. Like, what an incredible thing to see. You know, this guy doesn't even have the joy of knowing what it's like to be sober out in the real world. His entire sober life so far has been during a pandemic."
This episode of Eat It, Virginia! is sponsored by #SmallUnites.