“Shop local.”

Yeah, we know. You read that every year about this time.

This year, though, “shop local” is more than a holiday slogan. It’s an urgent plea. More than a few local businesses face dire circumstances as this COVID-19 pandemic rages.

As everyone knows by now, for the second time in less than nine months, COVID-19 has forced at least a monthlong closure of bars, restaurants, entertainment and recreation venues and more.

Necessary restrictions on events and gatherings mean there will likely be no company parties or even “let’s just stop for one after work.” Honestly, even the seasonal battle cry of “let’s go shopping” could be muted in the face of this deadly spike of COVID-19.

Amid all that, though, most of us are probably still planning on shopping for holiday gifts. And we certainly still need to purchase daily necessities.

When you make those purchases, please make them with locally owned and operated businesses. Especially this year. Sure, you can still do that via the internet. Just make sure you search specifically for local businesses. And then click and spend through them.

Similarly, if you lead a business or organization that normally would hold a holiday or year-end celebration, don’t just put those plans — and money — on hold. Work with your host to shift that event a few months or more into 2021. Still, though, pay for it now if that’s at all possible.

And most certainly, reach out to your favorite local restaurant or bar and give your support. Buy gift cards or other merchandise.

Of all the industries tested by this pandemic, the hospitality industry stands out as the most challenged. Help those in it make it through so they can welcome you back, hopefully to ring in the New Year.

“Shop local” like your neighbor’s livelihood depends on it. Because this year it really does.

FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE ST. CLOUD TIMES