BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore is re-launching its gift card program to help small businesses during a holiday season reshaped significantly due to COVID-19.

At a time when the Mount Vernon Marketplace should be bustling, it was relatively empty on Monday.

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“You’d have happy hour patrons, you’d have families here in the evenings and weekends, but because of concerns and crowd limitations that business just hasn’t been here this year,” Mike Evitts with the Downtown Partnership said.

That drop in business is leading some shop owners to worry about the future of their establishments.

“There were days where we were just sitting here waiting for the phone to ring or orders to come in,” said Keyia Yalcin.

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Due to the lull, the Downtown Partnership relaunched the Curbside Baltimore gift card program from the spring. Customers will be able to buy gift cards for $25 each, while the group will kick in an extra $10.

The gift cards go on sale Wednesday and are valid at a number of establishments across the city.

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For struggling businesses, it’s a crucial lifeline during one of the busiest times of the year.

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“It provides an immediate cash infusion to these businesses and it also gives customers ten dollars of extra spending power so it’s literally a win-win,” Evitts said.

To learn more about the program, click here.

The Downtown Partnership is also starting a pop-up store for local businesses to sell their merchandise.

Beginning Sunday, local makers will be able to showcase their products at the pop-up store in Center Plaza near the intersection of North Charles and Fayette streets. It will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays until December 23.

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Annie Rose Ramos