The Real Reason People Are Praising Jill Biden For Her Coffee Habits

The visit of First Lady Dr. Jill Biden to Brewer's Cafe, an award-winning coffee shop in Richmond, Virginia, has drawn enough attention to warrant news articles announcing the fact. As The Seattle Times notes, the attention is due to the fact that Biden appears to have chosen either Black-owned or immigrant-owned small businesses to publicly patronize in the last few weeks. Previously, she visited the Sweet Lobby in D.C. for Valentine's Day treats and the Newsroom, a D.C. bodega and newsstand run. The former is run by a Trinidadian immigrant, the latter by a married Kenyan and Guatemalan couple, and Brewer's Cafe is a family-owned Black establishment.

Dr. Biden's visit to Brewer's Cafe, The Seattle Times writes, was a side-excursion on her way to a panel discussion at the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University in which she explained that communities of color have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

In this context, the reasons for Dr. Biden's visit to Brewer's Cafe could range widely from a political calculation to boost the Biden image, to a desire to help establishments hardest his by the pandemic, to simply wanting good coffee, or all of the above. However, one clear effect that the presence of the First Lady has is to produce free publicity. "The social media reaction was definitely the most traffic that we've ever seen," Ajay Brewer, owner of Brewer's Cafe, told The Seattle Times. And so, foot traffic followed suit.

Black-owned businesses have borne the brunt of COVID

Such publicity, like that from Dr. Jill Biden, is much needed after the ravages 2020 inflicted upon the food and restaurant industries. While all have undoubtedly suffered, Black-owned businesses suffered more proportionately.

In June, Bloomberg reported on the findings of a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The number of Black-owned businesses had dropped by 41 percent since the beginning of the lockdown period, the largest decrease in percentage. Or, in more tangible terms, around 440,000 out of 637,769 small businesses that still existed in April. The next largest group in the closures were immigrants, seeing a reduction of 36 percent or 1,110,667 of a previous 2,009,597 businesses.

By February of this year, 53 percent of Black-owned stores saw their revenue drop by half due to the ongoing economic effects of the pandemic, according to a report covered by CBS. Furthermore, only 40 percent expected their businesses to survive the pandemic. In both cases again, the Black community had the worst numbers, and they exceeded the proportion of businesses they represented.

The praise for Dr. Biden's patronage cannot be divorced from this context. By choosing to publicly go to Black-owned businesses outside of choreographed events, she has brought newfound focus to places that have so far survived the worst the pandemic has inflicted, but still have a while to go before reaching a normal and stable business state.