The Heights Citizen Bicycle Brigade is keeping Seminole Heights restaurants afloat during the pandemic
Seminole Heights is quiet. It isn’t bustling as usual. The students, the young couples walking their dogs, the market vendors, the bar and restaurant regulars, they’re all indoors. Seminole Heights restaurants as well as all restaurants across Florida have been required to close their dining rooms since Friday March 27 when Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order due to COVID-19.
Soon after restaurants had to close their seating options, Devon Brady decided to start The Heights Citizen Bicycle Brigade, a local to the heights bicycle food-delivery service. The Brigade is volunteer based, running with the help of about six to eight volunteer dispatchers and 10-12 bike riders.
Brady owns a small business of his own in Tampa called LiveWork studios, through which he has met many of the restaurant and bar owners in the area. He also is a sixteen-year veteran of the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. “Having these two different jobs gives me some insight into what the neighborhood needs in a crisis from both a business owner’s perspective and someone who’s been involved in disaster mitigation and planning,” Brady said.
The Brigade communicates through email, text, Facebook Messenger and spreadsheets. The spreadsheets list the riders available for each day and where they are located in the neighborhood. The dispatcher’s job is to receive the orders through email by the businesses involved and find the nearest rider, then send them a text with the order information. The deliverer then picks the order up, delivers it and lets the dispatcher know that they’ve delivered the order.
The local restaurants that deliver with help of the Brigade change all the time, according to Brady. Some restaurants decide to close for the time being due to the cost of staying open being greater than the profit or due to health concerns. Some of the restaurants that have closed are Hampton Station, The Independent and Trips Diner. However most restaurants in the heights are still open for pick up or deliveries. New World Brewery, Mermaid Tavern, Mekenitas, Heights Seafood, Front Porch, Harvest Bowl, Seminole Heights General Store, King of the Coop, Jug and Bottle, Ellas, Renes Mexican, Olde Heights Bistro, Whatever Pops and Gulf Coast Sourdough all as of now use the Heights Bicycle Brigade for delivery.
According to Brady, Seminole Heights’ strength has always been how connected the residents are. Through that connectedness, volunteer work and communication, the Brigade is able to bring the locals their favorite meals and keep many of the businesses running through the pandemic.