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Tofino restaurant serves over 1,300 free takeway turkey dinners in one night

Lil Ronnie’s Beachside BBQ keeps community Christmas tradition alive

The hardworking team at Lil Ronnie’s Beachside BBQ pulled off a tremendous feat on Dec. 22, serving about 1,350 people takeout Christmas supper in one evening.

Owner Ronnie Lee said his crew was up until 2 a.m. the morning prior mashing 500 pounds of potatoes.

“I’m just really grateful for everybody. Once the pandemic is over we will all get together and break bread at a table, but for now this is how we have to do it,” said Lee.

Tofino mayor Dan Law, Tuff City Radio’s Cameron Dennison, and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Iris Frank helped co-ordinate the delivery of 170 turkey dinner platters to 470 people in the communities of Opisaht, Esowista, Ty-histanis, and Tin Wis.

“It’s another COVID Christmas. It’s going to be sad as we can’t gather with our families,” said Frank.

Her daughter Hannah Frank says the takeout dinners bring joy into homes.

“The food is bringing happiness to their hearts,” said the Ucluelet Secondary student.

Law was on hand to help deliver 40 turkey platters to 160 people in Ahousaht, which is about a half hour boat ride from Tofino.

“It’s just what Christmas is about. You share your gifts. Ronnie is sharing his gift with everyone in town,” said Law.

Lee told the Westerly the idea for the community feast started a couple years ago when the town lost power in a big storm.

“We decided we wanted to uplift all our staffs spirits so we went to the brewery and cooked all the food that we had on hand and donated it. The following year we decided we wanted to carry on the tradition so we started a community dinner inside at the community hall downtown,” said Lee.

Last year, they delivered 300 meals and for Christmas 2021, Lee said he had it in his head that he wanted to try to deliver 1,000 meals.

“I reached out to all my suppliers in September. We came across some hurdles because of the flooding, there were some shortages on some of the proteins, but we still managed to track down all the food that we needed,” he said.

This November, Lil Ronnie’s Beachside BBQ was awarded the accolade of ‘Tofino’s Business of the Year’ by the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs for us. There were multiple times we all thought we were going to lose everything. We definitely made a lot of changes to our business,” said Lee, noting that they got rid of their indoor seating and expanded their kitchen.

He offered some words of encouragement to fellow restaurateurs.

“There is still a way you can get creative and do things in a safe manner. Follow the guidelines. Get up early every day. Read the news. Call WorkSafe BC and still come up with ways we can do things and bring the community together in a safe way,” said Lee.

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