After a few days of challenging service and growing health fears, some restaurants and merchants have decided to give up on offering takeout and delivery and have chosen to join the ranks of temporary shutdowns.
Dining rooms and bars were shuttered this week as officials sought to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
For some, including John’s Roast Pork in South Philadelphia, the slow sales were not worth it. Owner John Bucci, who pulled the plug Friday, said he barely cracked $1,000 in receipts, a fraction of a typical day.
For others, including OCF Coffeehouses, it was a matter of safety, as staff decided that serving takeout wasn’t worth the health risk, said owner Ori Feibush, who agreed to provide a lump-sum payment and benefits to his 50-plus employees.
Restaurateurs are also trying to get clarity on the tenets of business-interruption insurance. If the government mandates a shutdown, can a claim be filed? Also, if there is further government action, such as a bailout or federal loan forgiveness, will it matter if the business was partly open?
Reading Terminal Market, as an essential business, remains open and is providing delivery from most merchants. Several vendors, including the owners of 4 Seasons Juice Bar, Tea Leaf, Fox & Son, Loco Luchos Latino Kitchen, and Olympia Gyro decided to close in the last few days.
DiNic’s, a popular sandwich destination at the terminal, announced its closing Sunday, ahead of the shutdown order. “Based on what we knew and had learned from multiple other countries, closing seemed like the prudent thing to do,” said owner Joe Nicolosi, who has a wife and four small children, including a newborn, at home.
Starr Restaurants started the week with delivery from 13 restaurants. By Friday afternoon, the list had dwindled to three: Fette Sau, Pizzeria Stella, and El Vez.
Cookie Till, the James Beard Award semifinalist, closed her Jersey Shore locations, Steve & Cookie’s in Margate and No. 7311 in Ventnor, after briefly giving it a go. In a note on social media, she said: “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our employees and guests.”
At John’s Roast Pork, Bucci, who overcame leukemia a decade ago, had planned to tough it out, isolating himself in his office while his staff grilled the pork, beef, and steak sandwiches. But sales were so poor, he said, he decided to close Friday afternoon till further notice.
Marc Vetri initially had planned to sell food out of his new Fiorella restaurant, but after a meeting with other restaurateurs on the issue decided against it.
Other restaurateurs put on the kibosh immediately.
“Opening for takeout could potentially contribute to the spread of this virus,” said Michael Schulson, who thought he would cook for his idled employees at restaurants including Harp & Crown and Giuseppe & Sons. “Yes, it’s awful, and we are feeling the impact of this in many ways, but we need to follow what’s being asked of us.... It’s hard, and we are struggling to deal with our new norm, but the sooner we comply, we can get back to resuming our everyday life and doing what we love, making people smile with our hospitality.”
Other restaurants are seeing positives by staying open, such as Bibou, the French BYOB in South Philadelphia. Quantity is keeping the lights on as chef Pierre Calmels offers $30 three-course specials, sold by phone and available for pickup — a fraction of the usual $125 seven-course feasts. The other day, Calmels offered sweet potato and leek soup, crab galette, and vanilla crème brûlée,
Meanwhile, others intend to step into the game. Michael Strauss of Mike’s BBQ in South Philadelphia, whose business interests include Sidecar Bar, Taproom on 19th, and D’Emilio’s, said he would start selling barbecue through pickup and the Caviar delivery service on Wednesday.
“It’s not a sustainable business plan,” said Strauss, who would bypass his dining room and work out of the front door. “It’s in our nature to feed people, no matter the situation. It’s why most of us do what we do. However, it must be done with caution and utmost safety in mind. We can survive.”