HartBeat of Main Street Grant Program: Spotlighting Mockingbird Bar and Tacos


December 22, 2020 | HartBeat of Main Street Grant Program: Spotlighting Mockingbird Bar and Tacos |

SoMa Outdoor Dining Room created by Mockingbird Bar and Taco for outdoor dining. Photo credit: Jack Sundell

Mockingbird Bar and Tacos: SoMa District, Little Rock, AR

Owner: Jack Sundell

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your small business.
Mockingbird Bar & Tacos is a farm-to-taco restaurant in the SoMa neighborhood of downtown Little Rock.  We'd been open for about a year and a half before the pandemic hit.

How has your business been impacted by COVID-19?
We normally do about 33% alcohol sales and 90% dine in, so we were really devastated by the shift to curbside and takeout.  

How are you using the grant funds, and how will they help your business?
In response to the pandemic we built the SoMa Outdoor Dining Room, a neighborhood project that created an outdoor dining area that patrons from all neighborhood restaurants could utilize. We added programming like music and live trivia, and it was a hit with residents! The 2020 pandemic version of the Outdoor Dining Room was put together with pop-up tents and folding tables and chairs; in the spring of 2021, we'll launch a permanent version of the SoMa Outdoor Dining Room: a wooden pavilion with tables and chairs, fans, lights, a sturdy roof, and a stage that will serve as an outdoor plaza and picnic area for the rest of the pandemic and for many years to come!

Having an outdoor seating area lets us take advantage of the newly formed SoMa Entertainment District, a permit that lets neighborhood bars and restaurants sell alcoholic beverages to-go. Creating a great outdoor gathering spot brings people to the neighborhood, offers a space for events and programming, and lets establishments restore some of the bar sales they've lost in the shift to takeout.

Are there any other ways you've pivoted your business in response to the pandemic?
We've started offering a lot more family style platters and meals, switched from table service to counter service, and started using several third-party delivery services like DoorDash and BiteSquad.

What advice would you give to small business owners who are struggling right now?
Do whatever it takes to survive--try new things, find new ways to engage with customers online, and collaborate with other businesses in your neighborhood to boost your marketing efforts. Take advantage of assistance programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and other forms of assistance from state and local government. There's light at the end of the tunnel now, and once we get there people will be very excited to get back out and support local, independent businesses in person!

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View more spotlights of the first round of recipients for the HartBeat of Main Street Grant Program.