Should We Trust the ‘New’ Phantom Gourmet?

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Rules of Engagement

Posted: 8/31/2020

It was only a matter of time.

You find out people’s true colors by their consistent actions over time, not just by what they say, but by what they do. Of course, people who are truly open to critical thinking, life-long learning, and opportunity can change.

It’s been more than nine and a half years since the infamous Phantom Gourmet radio program when Michael Andelman made the following comments about a hostess at Grill 23 in Boston:

“We walk in and the hostess who’s the typical hot woman, rude, cold- as-ice, never would talk to me in high school-type girl…”

“Danny, the fact that you consistently take the side of the restaurateur or just a really stupid maître d’ or a hostess over your family time and time again…”

“And it’s not like this was 8pm on a Saturday night. It’s 5 o’clock, and guess what, if the owner of Grill 23 was standing next to this dumb hostess, this moronic hostess who was just getting her, uh, jollies off by sticking to the rules of her little brochure in a little binder, this little monkey, her only job is to look at this binder and say don’t let people in ‘till 5:30….”

“There’s not a hostess who’s not good-looking, because they’re incompetent and can’t do anything else in life. If you can’t model, when you’re good-looking enough and not tall enough to model, you stand behind a little box and say, How many?”

During that radio program, Dan Andelman asked Michael and his father, Eddie, “How did she look from the back?”

On 2/25/11, I published a blog post, To Mike and Dan Andelman: A Call for a Public Apology.

In that post, I included the content of an email I sent to the Andelman brothers, including the email address of everyone I could track down who worked at the TV station that aired their program. Excerpts from my email:

“You had a week between radio shows to reflect on your comments that were posted on the 96.9 website (2/12/11 Eddie and Mike go to a Celtics game), and to consider issuing a public apology on your 2/19 program. You failed to do that, and mysteriously the audio has been removed from the 96.9 website.

The only public comments I have seen from either one of you are in a piece by Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein in The Boston Globe on 2/23:”

“Phantom Gourmet” host Mike Andelman is surprised by the online criticism concerning comments he made on “The Phantom Gourmet” radio show about restaurant hostesses. Ranting about a Grill 23 hostess who wouldn’t seat him in the dining room before the dinner hour began, Andleman said all restaurant hostesses are attractive but incompetent. Yesterday, he told us the comments were meant to be facetious. “Our radio show is obviously satire,”…

As I noted in my follow-up blog post on 3/14/11, Dan did apologize on their 2/26/11 radio show:

Dan: “I apologize for my rude, insensitive comment about her back.” [To Dan’s credit, he did sound sincere.]

During that same radio program, Dave (returning from vacation) reacted to a replay of the original, offensive radio segment:

Dave: [No acknowledgement of Mike’s ‘dumb’, ‘moron’ and ‘monkey’ comments.] I don’t even think it’s interesting enough for us to be replaying it on our own show. [3 brothers laughing hysterically] I’m waiting for the bomb to drop. That was it? That’s what you had to bother me for in Aruba and all week?

Therein lies the problem. By virtue of ignoring the offensive comments, and supporting his brothers, Dave now joins Mike and Dan in thinking it’s ok to make and defend disingenuous, odious remarks.

Dan: Michael, now that we’ve heard it, do you have something to say to New England?

Michael: I do. Number one, um, I, if I do find out who the hostess is at Grill 23, and the Boston Globe says they’re not sure who it is, ok, I’ve talked with my wife, um, I want to ask the hostess on a date. I have a hall pass if she would like to go out with me. I will take her out for dinner, for dancing…

I don’t know Danny, you are always the ombudsman of this program. Dad said something about winos, you talked about her [hostess] wearing yoga pants and I called her a moronic hostess. You tell me Danny, you’ve got the final word.

Dan: Frankly, not even in the top hundred offensive or amusing segments we’ve ever done.

Dave: No, there’s nothing even remotely interesting about it.

Dave: They [The Globedo sort of try to claim there’s a massive online controversy. That’s just not factually accurate. There’s like 4 guys talking to each other online, I mean that’s ridiculous.

Mike: I do apologize when I said all hostesses are moronic and stupid, and I do 100% apologize. I’m not including the average-looking ones who do a very good job. [Dan laughs hysterically.] I am only talking about the hot ones who have no idea…

Mike wasted the opportunity to do the right thing and sincerely apologize. Instead, he made a mockery of his misogyny. As I noted in my 3/14/11 blog post:

None of the hundreds of current and former restaurant industry workers who contacted me over the last few weeks is buying Mike’s childish, “I was just kidding, I’m just a jackass” defense. Everyone remotely involved with the restaurant community, with any credibility, understands exactly what the Andelmans are all about. Introspection and decency are lost on them. Their long-standing reputation for crassness and classless behavior has been bolstered by this incident.

But it wasn’t Michael’s pre-#MeToo antics, and Dave and Dan’s enabling comments that put the Phantom Gourmet TV program in the penalty box. After Dave wrote a series of Facebook posts mocking recent protests against racial injustice, the Phantom Gourmet TV program was temporarily shut down. According to Boston Magazine on 6/15/20:

“Dave Andelman has resigned as CEO of Phantom Gourmet, effective immediately. Per a post on the Phantom Gourmet Facebook page, Andelman will no longer appear on episodes of the TV show, will not be involved in any day-to-day operations, and will relinquish his ownership in the company. He will also resign from the Mendon Twin Drive-In. Dan Andelman, who co-hosted the program with his brother Dave, will take over as CEO.”

This isn’t the first time that the three Andelman brothers, who are all involved in the Phantom Gourmet empire and also co-own the popular Mendon Twin Drive-In movie theater, have been swept up in controversy. In 2011, Mike Andelman made headlines after an appearance on the Phantom Gourmet radio show in which he called a hostess who refused to seat him early at Grill 23 “a little monkey” and added that restaurant hostesses are often attractive because “they’re incompetent and can’t do anything else in life.”

After more than 2 months “on hiatus,” programming of Phantom Gourmet resumed on Saturday, 8/29/20. According to CBS Boston on 8/28/20:

“We’re going to look at this as the ultimate teaching moment. We’ve listened, and we’ve learned. And I think once we could put our actions to positively affect the community, I think we can really do some good,” said Dan Andelman.

Andelman says those actions include a complete overhaul of the company’s culture. At the helm of diversity and inclusion training will be community activist Tito Jackson, who’ll also help Phantom use its platform to elevate minority owned businesses.

“We are looking at an extended, at least year-long engagement, to do executive coaching, working with the actual staff, [we’ll be] looking at hiring,” Jackson said. “The real objective is working with people who are going to hold them to the grindstone when it comes to doing the right thing over the course of time. And changing the show, so the show is a reflection of the folks that are in the community.”

When Dan Andelman posted on his personal Facebook page on Saturday morning, 8/29/20, “See you on TV today,” I added the comment, It will be interesting to see if new programming is preceded by a long-overdue apology to the Grill 23 hostess and all hostesses denigrated by Michael on the old radio program, and for Daves’s tone deaf mockery of Black Lives Matter. Now is the perfect ‘teachable moment’ to take responsibility and genuinely apologize, instead of the old, “We were just kidding” excuse… I also attached my old blog post from 3/14/11. [To Dan’s credit, he did not delete my post.]

I recorded and watched the openings, closings, and most of the programming of the 5 Phantom Gourmet segments aired over the weekend. They all appeared to be repeats. None of them included an opening apology or statement about why they were shut down, or what they have “learned” during their ‘sabbatical.’ Another lost opportunity to demonstrate genuine remorse.

What I did see was a segment stating that, “The Phantom Gourmet supports black-owned restaurants like 50Kitchen in Dorchester,… Medford’s Neighborhood Kitchen,… and Suya Joint in Roxbury… Help preserve Boston’s black history and businesses at BlackHospitalityco.com.”

Questions remain:

  1. Will anyone at Phantom Gourmet issue an apology or statement before their first new, original episode?
  2. Will Michael Andelman ever genuinely apologize for his misogynist comments and degradation of women?
  3. Is the latest PR from Phantom Gourmet tokenism or are they sincere in their “complete overhaul of the company’s culture?”
  4. Will Dave continue to be compensated by PG, despite his public relinquishing of ownership? [Most probably.]

As I noted in my tweet over the weekend, We’ll see……..

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Grace, Gratitude, Love & Inspiration Under Fire: Ruhel Islam- Gandi Mahal Restaurant

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 5/30/2020

The Gandi Mahal Restaurant website:

“…Dedicated to bringing peace by pleasing your palate.”

Talk about grace, gratitude, perspective, and humility under fire (literally). This is the grass roots, real leadership, hope, love, and inspiration we need to see and hear more of in America. It’s disgraceful that Trump, his oppressive regime, and many of America’s leaders don’t even have a small fraction of this genuine, poised, prescient thinking.

Andrew Zimmern on twitter, “This letter, from the family that owns a restaurant I love, says it all. The strength of these words… read it twice and soak in what is being said here. The selflessness is breaking my heart and giving me strength today.”

Ruhel Islam, owner of Gandi Mahal Restaurant in Minneapolis: “My heart is very broken,” he said of the damage done to his restaurant. “We want justice for our brother, but we don’t want to be destroyed. I see young people’s anger. At the end, we believe in peace… I’m going to plant in the garden and pray for everyone.”

Thank you for your compassion, conviction, and wisdom, Hafsa, Ruhel, family, and Gandi Mahal Restaurant team. I hope America can learn from your love, humanity, and impassioned example. And I hope we can help you rebuild.

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Restaurants: The Ethical & Economic Dilemmas of Closing Permanently or Gambling on Reopening w/COVID-19 Looming

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 5/22/2020

“This shit is hard. Really fucking hard.” –Sammy Jackson chef/owner KO Catering & Pies in East Boston, MA on operating during the pandemic.

During the summer of 2011, I co-owned and ran the daily operations of a seasonal seafood shack in P-Town on Cape Cod. ‘Living the dream,’ with delusions of winters in the Caribbean, became a nightmare as Hurricane Irene forced us to close for several days, threatening our ability to salvage the season with our heads above water. Holed up in the basement apartment I rented from a school teacher in Truro (who supplemented her income as a waitress in P-Town), I penned, Diary of a Startup Seafood Shack to chronicle the adventure of transforming an idea, and raw shell of a space, into a functioning restaurant in a month.

It’s exhausting to read and relive that journey, which included walking up a dirt road to Route 6 at 7am and hitchhiking 6 miles from Truro to the fish shack. My buddy’s truck I was using broke down and was too expensive to fix. I enjoyed the ‘risk’/challenge/danger of hitching to work, and getting to know our banker, vendors, and locals who eventually recognized me and were nice enough to include me in their daily commute. Yeah, maybe I should have bought a bike, but I liked being ‘on the road.’

The hurricane hiatus from running the fish shack was the first, full ‘days off’ I had from running the business in 4 months. To stay cash flow positive, there was no salary for me or my business partner during the entire season. We took the pittance we needed to survive, with high hopes of a big payday at the end of the season. Humans being optimistic creatures, and despite teetering on the edge financially, I was always hopeful that our season would be ‘all good’ (read ‘lucrative’) in the end. Locals and tourists enjoyed our fresh seafood. P-Town and its people were crazy and awesome. And we were enjoying telling stories and drinking Schlitz tallboys after work on busy nights. Until the hurricane kicked the shit out of us…

In July we grossed $87k, approx $21,750/week. August was on track to be stronger before the winds kicked up, but let’s use July’s more conservative #’s for the sake of this discussion. Our lease for the season was 25k plus utilities. The hurricane put us out of business for about a week, with weak days on both sides of it. I think it’s fair to say we lost $25k as a result of the hurricane, the equivalent of rent for our entire season.

We’re all only a moment, diagnosis, phone call, accident, or event (weather or otherwise) away from having our lives and businesses changed forever. No one is exempt, especially in a pandemic. While hanging out in my bunker in Truro during the hurricane, my decision about whether or not to return the following season began to take shape…

On Monday, 5/18/20, after reading several articles and comments about how COVID-19 is devastating the restaurant industry, I posted some variation of the following on all of my social media platforms:

In my opinion, too many people are glorifying the ‘Triumphant Return of Restaurants’ as if we’re going to flip a switch and ‘It’s all good’ again. I always hated that expression, because rarely is it ‘all good’ when people use it, and often it’s a distraction/deflection from discussing the specifics of what is ‘all bad.’ The forecast for independent, full-service restaurants is really bad, and reopening to full capacity is a LOT more risky, complicated, and further away than many naïve people want to believe.

I’m publishing a blog post with a comprehensive list of factors that owners of independent, full-service restaurants across America are considering regarding their anguishing, looming decisions about whether or not to shut down their restaurants for good or take a gamble on reopening. You don’t need to own a restaurant to submit a comment for inclusion. However, I do want to include as many quotes and examples of specific, real issues that restaurant owners, investors, and partners are wrestling with as they contemplate their personal futures and the future of their families, staff, and business.

So here we are. My observations. Items I’ve read. And results of my requests for insight/comments regarding considerations to close permanently or try to reopen:

HEALTH/SAFETY/ETHICS:

  • Some owners have physical conditions that make them high-risk and vulnerable to contracting and potentially dying from COVID-19. And they have to consider contracting and bringing the virus home to their families.
  •  “Personally, I’m of the mind that we need to pivot and wait this out (dining in) until we can be confident we aren’t exposing our guests and, more importantly even, our staff to great danger through exposure. To me, reopening before we are confident we have a vaccine, treatment or herd immunity would be extremely damaging. Not just to our health but also to our financial stability.” –Avi Shemtov, chef/owner/author, The Shemtov Group
  • “We’re not scientists. How can we, in good faith, put our staff and our customers at risk when we haven’t met the guidelines for reopening?” -Anonymous chef/owner
  • “Is anyone else panicking about the safety of servers breathing in a room of up to 50 unmasked people? A cloth mask protects others from the server’s potential to spread illness, but even a surgical mask is little protection from viral particles in the air at high concentrations for hours. Servers can’t socially distance from their guests. I’m really concerned that servers will be a quick casualty of this reopening. I’m a server and manager, working the regulations and guidelines with my owner to reopen, and I appreciate the focus on customer safety but am appalled at the lack of consideration for servers. Anyone else feeling this?” -Heidi Spinney MacIsaac, Maine
  •  “I’m of the opinion that restaurants are simply not safe until masks don’t have to be a thing anymore, and it’s irresponsible for owners to open up before they can guarantee staff safety in a place with many guests breathing/keeping mouths open. That aside, one aspect of all of this that isn’t generally being discussed but will likely be a major issue is what kind of employees restaurants will have in the months to come, which is to say, who is going to leave the business entirely because it’s no longer fulfilling? I am about 75% certain that I will not be in the restaurant business by the end of the year. Why? Too much has changed, and the upcoming restrictions and new restaurant way of life will be too much to bear. As you know firsthand, working in restaurants has enough difficulties, both physical and interpersonal, but adding even more to surmount, including the potential to get sick in what is inherently a not-safe-for-airborne-contagion environment while removing whatever joy there was in the finer service details/sales/interactions makes is completely not worthwhile for many of us. I was drawn to restaurants because I liked the energy, camaraderie, being able to share a love for food and beverage. At least for me, returning to face masks, temperature checks, plastic silverware, disposable menus, not being able to smell wine if it’s corked…a clinical wasteland…is not something I can see myself doing. I’m sure I’m not alone in this — many whom I speak to regardless of position aren’t exactly hyped to be frontline workers when all they’re doing is serving food. I think we’ll see some of the more multifaceted creative types fleeing restaurants entirely.” -Restaurant worker
  •  #1-What are the exact legal requirements, protocols, and procedures for owners who learn that they, or someone on their staff, has tested positive for COVID-19?
    #2-Will they be required to close their business, inform their staff, make an effort to contact customers who visited recently, and post publicly on their website, newsletter, and social media platforms?
    #3-What govt entities will owners be required to notify, Board of Health? DPH? Then what happens?
    #4-Will all employees be tested immediately, then quarantined for 14 days? Who pays for their treatment if they test positive and have no insurance?
    #5-Will employees forced out of work be paid? Who will pay them? Is it now paid sick leave? Can they restart UI again? If owner pays them, can PPP reimburse the owners?
    #6-Will employees be required to sign something stating that they adhered to the quarantine guidelines before they can return to work?
    #7-What will the cleaning/disinfecting requirements be before reopening? Will an inspection be required? Have/will checklists been issued for inspections? Board of Health? How with limited # of inspectors?
    #8-What happens to unscrupulous operators/businesses who are negligent and get caught?
  •  Kitchen Safety: Annia Ciezadlo WAPO 5/29/20
  •  Boston Globe, 5/19/20: Frank DePasquale, who owns several North End restaurants including Bricco on Hanover Street, said Tuesday that offering his customers takeout has been woefully inadequate, since it accounts for less than 5 percent of his business. “You just can’t survive it with 5 percent,” he said. “We’re just standing here waiting.” At the same time, DePasquale said, “it’s a fine balance between the virus and the businesses, where we of course want to keep our staff and our customers safe. That’s the number one priority.”
  •  Eater National, 5/19/20:  Is It Safe to Eat at Restaurants Yet?Dining out right now will come with certain risks. Here’s what you can do to keep yourself and others around you safe.’
  •  Devra First Boston Globe 5/21/20: ‘I’m a restaurant critic — I’m not ready to eat in a restaurant right now. It pains me to say it, because many businesses won’t survive. But a premature return to the dining room won’t help anyone.’ “…there are simply too many sticking points right now — practical, moral — to contemplate anything more up close and personal than takeout… The practical concerns are clear. Massachusetts still averages more than 1,000 newly reported infections a day, and coronavirus loves to spread in enclosed environments like dining rooms and places of worship. I pray for everyone who will soon be attending religious services, an option in Phase I. On Mother’s Day, at a California church, 180 people were exposed to the virus by an asymptomatic congregant who tested positive the next day. There is no steak frites heavenly enough to get me to take a comparable risk at this moment. Even seated 6 feet apart, served by people in stylish matching masks embroidered with the restaurant’s logo, a crack pit crew disinfecting each table between uses, there are too many unpredictable vectors…Social distancing best protects us in situations where we are only exposed to one another briefly. As Erin Bromage, a comparative immunologist and biology professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, pointed out in a blog post that went viral: “Social distancing guidelines don’t hold in indoor spaces where you spend a lot of time” — like restaurants — “as people on the opposite side of the room were infected.” A diagram shows how over the course of a meal in a Guangzhou, China,restaurant that lasted 60 to 90 minutes, one person infected four out of the nine others at the table. The infection pattern at the adjacent tables is seemingly erratic: most of the people at one, none at two, a few at the faraway side of another. But those who were infected were sitting downwind, positioned between the AC and an exhaust fan.” For the record, I agree with Devra.
  •  Repeat, please read this entire piece by Dr. Erin Bromage. Interior air flow, ventilation, and inadequate filtration play a significant role in transmission of the virus.
  •  The danger of the “second wave.” -Boston Globe May 25, 20

FINANCES:

  • How much time is left on the lease. Boston Globe 5/18/20: Dante de Magistris has closed his namesake business, Restaurant Dante, inside Cambridge’s Royal Sonesta Hotel… De Magistris says that his lease was due to expire at the end of 2020, but he and his co-owners, brothers Damian and Filippo de Magistris, would have renewed it for five more years if not for COVID-19… “But summer is a busy time for us, with the patio. And the hotel business has always been a big part of our business, especially with the bar. We would have been happy to work on a deal to stay after the 15-year mark,” he says. “We couldn’t make the numbers work in the short term.” Good luck to Dante and team on the next chapter.
  • Personal guarantees required to renew leases. Is it worth the risk to the restaurant owner and financial stakeholders?
  • Landlord relationships, negotiations and ‘partnership’ dialogue. Will there be rent abatements because of capacity restrictions? Landlords also have responsibilities to their banks/investors. They will also have difficulty leasing to new restaurant tenants if current tenant vacates. *
  •  Local, state, or federal aid for lease/mortgage payments. Bank negotiations for mortgages.
  •  “Capacity limitations won’t work for me even with an 80% rent reduction. It will cost me money to open. Planning on closing for good.” -Restaurant owner in Maine
  •  Outstanding bills, and the implications on personal and professional relationships with vendors who won’t get paid if there’s no money to pay them.
  •  CNN 5/17/20: ‘Restaurant and bar owners say social distancing could wipe out their industry’
  •  The challenge of bringing staff back to work who are making more on unemployment than they will in a slow restaurant.
  •  “Even worse economic devastation when businesses are shut down again or forced to spend more money they don’t have to reconfigure kitchens, service stations, dining rooms, waiting areas.” –Jennifer Sutherland on SNS Facebook Group
  • “The cost associated with maintaining the unrealistic sanitizing measures being implemented will negate any chance at profit, and you’re going to see price gauging with every restaurant desperate for masks, gloves, sanitizers, cleansers, etc. ” –Michael O’Siridean owner, Chelsea Station Restaurant Bar & Lounge Chelsea, MA
  •  “I would love to see some sort of PPE supply bank just for restauranteurs or essential workers to shop at or to receive, even from the government,” King said. “Last week I had to go to three Restaurant Depots to find gloves for me to be able to serve my food.” –Bessie King Villa Mexico Cafe during MA Restaurant United Town Hall
  •  “PPP is a band-aid on a hemorrhage.” -Chef/owner who is leaving their restaurant.
  •  PPP is useless to restaurants as originally structured. The requirement to use it to pay employees within 8 weeks makes no sense with most, if not all employees out of work at some restaurants. The 75/25 ratio needs to be changed. The loan-to-grant terms need to change. And the remaining loan terms need to be extended to 5(?) years.
  •  Eater, 5/21/20: “The PPP remains an eight week band-aid for an 18-month problem overwhelming independent restaurants,” the Independent Restaurant Coalition wrote in a statement as the U.S. House of Representative considered changes to the Paycheck Protection Program. “They will incur new expenses for necessities like protective items and heightened cleaning protocols, while modifying dining rooms to reduce seating will cause independent restaurants to lose up to 50 percent in revenue if they are able to reopen at all.”
  •  “Can we diversify revenue streams enough to sustain a living?” -Chef/owner
  •  Restaurants offering make-at-home meal kits. Boston 7 News.
  •  The viability of catering, ghost kitchens, takeout, and delivery. FSR Magazine May edition.
  •  “Adding debt on top of debt won’t work.” -Tiffani Faison, chef/owner Big Heart Hospitality Boston via Marlo Marketing webinar.
  •  Saving Our Street (SOS) Act proposed by Representative Ayanna Pressley and Senator Kamala Harris on May 6, 2020.
  •  Anonymous chef/owner: I have 2 places that will suffer. Our business will come back by 20% (if that) for who knows how long. How can we focus 100% of energy on 20%? I need (like other multi operators) to choose which business I let die, I can’t focus on both. It’s like choosing one child to keep and one to give away. Horrible. My heart is torn for all line staff, the business will not be there to support them. Restaurants can pivot, but we can’t change our entire business model overnight to curbside, takeout. Urban steakhouses, larger restaurants that rely on volume are going to be hit very hard. We rely on (population) density of the area to be busy, and the density is not there to make it worth opening.We also need booze. My restaurant is 70/30. 30% of our revenue is booze, Selling wine to-go is not the same as a server coming to the table and upselling. It also has much better margins. I also believe prices will be higher in restaurants when we come out of this. The cost of doing business will be greater. I have seen some restaurants adding a “covid-19″ charge. The business will need to pass through cleaning, paper, and other expenses related to this pandemic to the guest.”
  •  * Will local governments buy liquor licenses from restaurant owners to free up cash? The most expensive, private sale of a  full liquor license in Boston, pre-pandemic that I am aware of is $485k, according to Atty. Kristen Scanlon. 5/27/20 update on creative solutions for Boston liquor license holders via Universal Hub.
  •  Will local and state government extend ‘relaxed’ laws on selling alcohol to-go, ‘groceries,’ and anything else they have done to create additional revenue streams for restaurants? If yes, for how long? *
  •  “The idea of income only coming for the 25% capacity is not feasible and shouldn’t even be looked at as the only source of income because that’s just thinking of this in the “normal” conventional way. Takeout and curbside is here to stay and selling groceries to the public has proven to be successful in my end because of restaurants having a direct line through vendors on common goods.” –Kate Holowchik, Pastry Chef, Ledger Restaurant Salem, MA
  •  As I have repeatedly stated, unless PPP is drastically modified, AND significant, longer-term sustainable help arrives from local, state and federal government, as well as from landlords, and the private sector, many, if not most, independent, full service restaurants will be closed a year from now. The margins are too thin to survive a minor disruption of service, never mind a calamity of this scale.
  • Independent Restaurant Coalition email, 5/20/20: In a white paper released today, the Congressman outlined plans to introduce The RESTAURANTS Act of 2020, which would create a new $120 billion grant program to provide structured relief to independent restaurants through 2020. We won’t be returning to normal anytime soon, and for independent restaurants, the Paycheck Protection Program is like building a bridge that doesn’t reach across the water. A stabilization fund will reach the other side and get us through this crisis. It’s the only way to ensure restaurants can quickly afford to reopen and re-employ 11 million Americans. [This could be a game-changer.] 
  •  Veteran restaurateur, Jody Adams in the Boston Globe, 5/20/20 in a Q&A with Kara Baskin:

Kara: How do restaurants survive? What do interventions look like?

Jody: A national organization emerged out of the restaurant rubble: the Independent Restaurant Coalition. They’re advocating and pushing for a $120 billion stabilization fund, and it’s making its way to the White House. In fact, Will [Guidara] from Eleven Madison Park, the head of the IRC, is one of the main voices. He’ll be there with the National Restaurant Association on Monday [May 18]. We’re asking to carve out $120 billion fund for independent restaurants, which aren’t publicly traded.

Kara: What are you doing to save restaurants on a local level?

Jody: A handful of us formed Massachusetts Restaurant United. Our asks were big and bold. Closing restaurants would be a huge big deal and hurt in a way that other businesses don’t. We’ve been meeting three times a week, advocating for ourselves, aligning with the Independent Restaurant Coalition and supporting the work they do. They work at the federal level, and we’re working at a state level. We’re advocating for delivery-fee reduction, forming a task force with landlords about rent, pushing for business interruption insurance. It’s important that the state understand what we contribute: In Massachusetts, we generate close to $19 billion a year in sales and employ 350,000 people. When you think about two-thirds of restaurant workers losing their jobs — the statistics are staggering, and what’s been really encouraging is that people are starting to listen. Our reps in Washington, D.C., are starting to listen, and that’s encouraging. Ayanna Pressley gets it; Elizabeth Warren does as well.

Kara: What’s next for restaurants?

Jody: Unless we get some serious help from the federal government with a Restaurant Stabilization Fund, unless business interruption insurance is honored, unless the PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] goal post is moved — those are the big questions. We need grants, not loans, and we need them from restaurants like ours down to the pizza shops and the taquerias and the little Ethiopian restaurants. We all need help, and if we don’t get help, the personality of our neighborhoods is going to change. Imagine if only 20 percent of restaurants reopened, which is what some people are projecting.

GENERAL:

  • “Living the dream” vs. enduring an ongoing horrific nightmare. For what?
  • A lot of people don’t realize that there are often stakeholders, silent and active partners/investors that have a say in what happens. There are moral, ethical, and financial disagreements, divisions, fights, and legal battles going on behind the scenes of many restaurants and businesses that will drive some decisions about closing for good or reopening.
  •  Chris Crowley for Grubstreet, 5/20/20: “It’s possible that you’ve forgotten that Trump’s restaurant panel exists. Who, really, knows what’s going on right now, and also why bother when every day is like every other day? If that’s the case, Grub Street has a surprise for you: This week’s White House roundtable provided a very clear reminder that the restaurant panel is not, in fact, going to make anything better.”
  •  Will restaurants be able to use sidewalks, streets, parks, and parking lots to expand their capacity and meet physical distancing requirements? Local allocation of public and private space may be required in locations where multiple restaurants exist. *
  •  Boston Globe 5/18/20: Make Boston’s comeback al fresco ‘By clearing hurdles to outdoor dining, the city can make its street life more vibrant than it was even before the COVID-19 pandemic.’
  •  Universal Hub 5/21/20: ‘Boston restaurants can get emergency approval to add outdoor seating once they’re allowed to re-open for diners.’
  •  Outside dining in New England and beyond is a crapshoot, and not the silver bullet that some are portraying it as. (See Hurricane Irene comments above.)
  •  Permits, fees, licenses required to conform to new guidelines for outside dining???
  •  Working notes from a Salem, MA restaurant owner: Reservations only? Additional hand-washing stations for outdoors? Disposable EVERYTHING, including menus, ‘glassware,’ condiment packets. Physical barriers, planters/plexiglass? Contact tracing requirement? Mask requirements for guests? Should we buy/build a supplemental outdoor bar?
  •  Toast: 78-item (yup) reopen checklist. Read it before you decide.
  •  Another Reopen Plan from Jeff Toister, Customer Service Professional.
  •  MA Checklist for Restaurants 5/29/20.
  •  People can be extremely unreasonable. How will they respond to new, stringent requirements, restrictions, wait times, and a ‘sterile’ dining experience? *
  •  What will be the clear short and longer-term ‘guidance’/rules be for operators? How can they decide on whether or not they want to try opening again if they don’t know what will be required? *
  •  According to the Boston Globe on 5/20, in MA, “Prior to opening, restaurants and bars will need to meet sector-specific protocols and best practices that will be released closer to each phase’s reopening date. Each business will also need to complete a COVID-19 control plan, outlining the protocols implemented in regards to social distancing, hygiene, staffing and operations, and cleaning and disinfecting, and will be required to display a “compliance attestation poster” onsite where it’s visible to both employees and customers.”
  •  The realities of internal ‘self-policing’ safety protocols and the stress that will add to the culture of the restaurant. Let’s face it, when left to humans, corners are always cut. And that will be true with restaurant staff and guests. Hard truth.
  •  Will there be on-going communication with policymakers to ensure that operators know immediately when adjustments (based on the #’s and science) are required? *
  •  The risk/danger of a ‘second surge’ in the fall forcing another prolonged closure.
  •  McKinsey & Co, 5/19/20: How restaurants can thrive in the next normal, “These are grim projections. Many restaurants don’t have the financial means to endure such a prolonged downturn. Especially vulnerable are small franchisees (those with ten or fewer locations) and independent operators not affiliated with a chain. To survive, franchisees will need to receive financial assistance from franchisors and from the government, or drastically reduce their costs; independents could have an even harder time staying afloat because they don’t have access to the loans and rent deferrals that franchisors can offer. We estimate that, of the 650,000-plus US restaurant locations that were in business in 2019, approximately one in five—or more than 130,000—will be permanently shuttered by next year. Independents will bear the brunt of the closures, both because of attributes that make most independents more vulnerable in this pandemic (minimal off-premise presence, limited digital capabilities, low emphasis on value-based menu items) and because of their unfavorable economics (thin margins and poor access to capital). Independents’ share of US restaurant locations could fall from 53 percent in 2019 to 43 percent in 2021.” [Please read the entire article.]
  •  Bessie King, general manager of Villa Mexico Café, Boston, which was founded and is operated by her mom, Julie King: Personally I don’t know how to feel anymore about the current situation- sad that what we’ve built for 20 years is at risk of not continuing for another 3 or 5 or 10 more years, happy that I am not as big as fellow restaurateurs who can’t survive without dine-in sales, or embarrassed that since I am not as big as others. I still stress/worry/complain.  It’s a constant whirlwind of emotions, but overall the fear and worry that takes over in waves is about my surroundings. This pandemic has shown us the worst in humanity, from neighbors to government. As an “essential” employee I wonder if people will continue to thank us for our work once they go back to their “as normal as possible” lives to demand the same commodities as before that underpaid and overworked people, like us, continue to do. I wonder if the government will really change, and offer basic medical care to all, and equal rights to all, and fair pay to all. I wonder if people who doubt the virus is real and refuses to wear masks or respect store lines or refuse to acknowledge how broken our systems are, will be the cause of a future outbreak. Sometimes when I am out making our deliveries or doing our supply shopping, I see little kids with their parents and I try to imagine what they’re thinking and feeling and what’s in store for their future. I have no children, but I feel so sorry for these kids who have to live with the consequences of our and our ancestor’s actions. I truly hope, for their sake, that things don’t just go back to normal.This pandemic has taught us that the few richest people I the world could help provide food, shelter, and aid to the vast majority of middle class and lower populations. However, they choose not to. We are still engulfed in looking a certain way and dressing in certain brands and having certain things to show we’ve made it, while killing ourselves working for these materialistic things that prove nothing. Someone above us has more money and more influence and more of a chance to change the world as a whole than us being able to change our own surroundings.The worst thing about this is we let them. We can complain about our neighbors and our leaders, our family, and even our customers, but we do nothing other than talk to complain. We are not getting involved en masse trying to change this nation for the better, demanding equity and equality for all. This has been what allows a specific group of people to get richer and the rest of us to fight against each other. I sincerely pray people will be fed-up and inspired enough to seek change, to not just think about their own survival but the collective’s.Without immigrants we have no cheap employees, without employees we have no business, without business we have no customers to have a business, and without a business we go back to the same lifestyle of working two or three jobs, or one 9-5 gig, 40 or so hours a week, for years until we retire and maybe enjoy life a little before it’s the end. Having your own business is not the ultimate lifestyle either, but my point is both life paths are tied to an imbalance that puts work and revenues of humanity.Needless to say, now that things are reopening this imbalance continues. How do we really stay safe? What is enough to protect our workers, ourselves, our vendors and our customers? Where do we find the necessary supplies for this when everyone is hogging whatever they find? What will happen if there’s another outbreak and we need to close again? Is the government prepared now, to really take this threat seriously and offer the funds and medical care necessary for everyone to get through?
  •  Alex Saenz, chef/partner Bisq Cambridge, MA on Twitter May 15: If we lose the ability to use our senses e.g. smell/taste (masks), touch (gloves) & the ability to have an ambiance of warmth & welcoming, what’s the point. At least for me, I will lose everything that makes this my passion.*safety first, but there’s a disconnect
  •  After a 19-year run, Cuchi Cuchi, a popular Cambridge, MA restaurant announced their permanent closure on facebook on 5/18/20:

Cuchi Cuchi’s Obituary… The fundamental purpose of socializing w/food/wine/good company has been obliterated overnight by an unlucky fluke of nature which gives new meaning to “survival of the fittest.” On the bright side, perhaps humans will now be more nurturing towards each other and the planet and less prone to feeling unabashedly special/invincible.

  •  One of the most sobering takeaways from this important conversation was that restaurant owners who risk the prospect of reopening will be required to provide safety standards and protocols that fly in the face of ‘traditional’ hospitality. I understand, respect, and support science dictating the interim requirements until we can rely on testing, treatment, tracing and/or a vaccine to be somewhat social again. ‘Distancing’ is the antithesis of genuine hospitality. It was clear on the somber faces, tone of the panelist’s voices, and in the content of their comments, that ‘new normal’ hospitality, devoid of hugs, kisses, warmth, and close connections with staff and guests, may not be enough to inspire them to stay. And I wouldn’t blame any of them for leaving the grind.

This crisis has laid bare the realities that restaurant owners face every day. On many occasions, operating and sustaining a restaurant is far from the romantic ‘intimate dinner party’ that some owners, chefs, and staff always portray it to be. It can be.

“Like most chefs who own these small restaurants that have now proliferated across the whole city, I’ve been driven by the sensory, the human, the poetic and the profane — not by money or a thirst to expand.” -Gabrielle Hamilton NYT

‘Find something you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life…’ always sounds good.

The notion that operating a restaurant is 100% a selfless, altruistic venture to ‘watch the satisfaction on a guests face after they bite into your food,’ is fantasy, ‘bucolic bullshit’ as my dad loved to say. The restaurant industry is an extremely difficult, exhausting grind, physically and emotionally. And through it all, It’s still a business.

“I still quietly thrum with satisfaction when the “kids”(staff) are chattering away and hugging one another their hellos and how-are-yous in the hallway as they get ready for their shifts.

But the very first time you cut a payroll check, you understand quite bluntly that, poetic notions aside, you are running a business. And that crew of knuckleheads you adore are counting on you for their livelihood.” -Gabrielle Hamilton

In addition to contemplating many of the items above, there are thousands of owners, restaurant industry and service industry humans wrestling with their next move. Pride will play a big role in many of those decisions, as well as what stage of life and their careers they are in. Additionally, some restaurants will close and some people will leave the industry under the guise of the pandemic’s impact, but their fate may have been decided well before the crisis hit. Everyone has to follow their own gut feeling and decide what will afford them the most peace of mind and reasonable quality of life for their next chapter. Hopefully there will be many more…

After Hurricane Irene cleared Cape Cod, we fired up our little fish shack very quickly. We were able to negotiate and eliminate the final 7k payment due on our lease, and pay back the 20k plus interest we borrowed from an investor.

Here’s an excerpt from an old ‘day in the life’ blog post about being back in the fray:

 My days currently consist of arriving at the seafood shack before 8 AM, to manage the day-to-day operations of the business. That includes scheduling employees, cutting lemons, taking in deliveries, setting-up, banking, making our housemade tartar sauce, minimizing the internal and external drama, bussing tables, bookkeeping, working the counter, putting out fires, shucking oysters, paying the bills, cleaning, closing, and leaving the shop by 10:30pm 7 days a week. Many meals wolfed on the fly over a trash barrel. As with any short, seasonal business, there’s a time to go hard and a time to go home. August is the Superbowl (especially Carnival Week) for merchants in Provincetown, and I am right in the middle of the fray.

After scrutinizing the numbers and financial forecast carefully, I met with my partner a month before the season ended when there was pressure for us to renew the lease. I knew then that the business wasn’t going to be lucrative enough for me to tailor my life around it and return the following season. My piece of the pie for six hard months of work was a check for 15k that I drove away from our accountant’s office with, heading north for another cold season in Boston instead of the tropics. I don’t even want to calculate what 15k translated into hourly…

Very tough road ahead. Good luck to everyone in the restaurant industry, and every other service industry with the hard decisions you are facing. I am extremely sorry for what you are enduring.  Please share your insights, stories and whatever I missed in the comments. Thank you.

Notes:

#1. * The items with an asterisk were discussed in a webinar on 5/7/20 hosted by Marlo Fogelman of Marlo Marketing. Panelists included veteran, Boston restaurant operators, Garrett Harker, Tiffani Faison, Mike Shaw, Patrick Lee, and Chris Jamison. I recommend you invest the time to watch it to gain more insight into the ‘state-of-the-state’ of the restaurant industry. Thank you.

#2. I strongly recommend reading Gabrielle Hamilton’s piece in the NYT: ‘My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore? Forced to shutter Prune, I’ve been revisiting my original dreams for it — and wondering if there will still be a place for it in the New York of the future.’ [I ordered Gabrielle’ book, Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef]

Here’s one more snippet: But Prune at 20 is a different and reduced quantity, now that there are no more services to add and costs keep going up. It just barely banks about exactly what it needs each week to cover its expenses. I’ve joked for years that I’m in the nonprofit sector, but that has been more direly true for several years now. This past summer, at 53, in spite of having four James Beard Awards on the wall, an Emmy on the shelf from our PBS program and a best-selling book that has been translated into six languages, I found myself flat on my stomach on the kitchen floor in a painter’s paper coverall suit, maneuvering a garden hose rigged up to the faucet. I’d poured bleach and Palmolive and degreaser behind the range and the reach-ins, trying to blast out the deep, dark, unreachable corner of the sauté station where lost egg shells, mussels, green scrubbies, hollow marrow bones, tasting spoons and cake testers, tongs and the occasional sizzle plate all get trapped and forgotten during service.

#3-To encourage more blog posts and support my effort to publish my Server Not Servant book, my Venmo is @Patrick-Maguire-32, and the top blue box on the right-hand side of this page, “Support Server Not Servant” leads you to my PayPal account. Grateful for your consideration. -PM

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“Paranoid,” #EssentialWorkers on the #FrontLine Fear for Their Lives

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 4/10/2020

Since our Twilight Zone existence began, the first few times I saw him, I thanked the young guy working in the fish department of my neighborhood market for being there. As time wore on, and the thank you’s became redundant, I asked him how he felt about working through this nightmare, “I’m paranoid, man. I don’t want to get sick, but I gotta pay the bills.” This is the reality for many workers I’ve spoken with–they’re grateful to have work when many of us don’t, but they’re afraid, putting themselves and their loved ones at risk every shift. They don’t see themselves as heroes, but they do want and deserve hazard pay and expanded benefits. The fear and danger for all frontline workers is real.

NYT Morning Briefing, 4/10/20: As the pandemic reaches meat processing plants, some companies have offered financial incentives to keep workers on the job. But the spread of illness is forcing plants to close. “My mom said the guy at the plant said they had to work to feed America. But my mom was sick,” said the son of a woman who worked at a poultry plant in Georgia. She died on Thursday.

I started this blog/book project to provide a voice for service industry workers. I never intended to portray workers with the overused moniker, ‘hero,’ but rather to advocate for mutual respect and decency between customers and servers. It really shouldn’t take a pandemic, huge snowstorm, or any great equalizer for people to be kind to each other and appreciate the value of the unsung humans who serve us every day. As my good friend, chef/restaurant owner, Greg Reeves often says, “It’s not that hard,” referring to common courtesy and ‘doing the right thing.’

First SNS blog post 10/29/09:

Some insecure, unaware humans will always be unnecessarily cruel, condescending, and selfish. That will never change. And the people who don’t shift their perspective about service industry workers when we reach ‘the other side’ of this calamity will never ‘learn’ because they’re closed to the opportunity, and consumed with protecting their established ‘worldview.’ Self-preservation of ideals is a strong motivator, and for some insecure people that often results in demeaning others to inflate their own sad sense of self-worth.

However, in addition to appreciating and recognizing our ‘traditional’ frontline workers (hospital, police, fire, EMT’s), many folks (at least for now) are valuing everyday workers on the ‘frontlines’ of our current crisis. Trash collectors, farm workers, transit crew and drivers, airline workers, volunteers, pharmacy workers, restaurant staff, mail carriers, truckers, food pantry workers, grocery store staff, elderly housing workers, childcare workers, warehouse and delivery drivers, and so many more people are stepping up and grinding their way through during this once-in-a-century calamity. Many of them are reluctant ‘heroes’ for putting themselves at risk to make a living and serve all of us.

“There’s always a level of fear. Is today going to be the day I get sick? There’s a bigger fear of how am I going to pay my bills and how am I going to take care of my family?” -Lisa Wilson, a Shaw’s supermarket worker and rally organizer told Katie Johnston at the Boston Globe 4/7/20.

Another worker at the same rally at Whole Foods in Boston’s South End stated, “We’re out here because Whole Foods owned by Amazon, one of the richest corporations in the history of our planet, is refusing to pay its workers more than $2 an hour hazard pay, is not providing its employees with adequate protective equipment, masks, gloves, etc.” –Boston Patch (Jimmy Bentley 4/7/20)

The additional $2/hour that Whole Foods is temporarily paying during this pandemic is disgraceful and insulting, given their wealth. You find out someone’s true colors are by their consistent actions over time, not by what they say, but by what they do. And that goes for corporations and company owners of all sizes, especially under duress. This crisis is laying bare the raw core, fabric, and soul of what people and companies are made of. These are times that define leadership, character, relationships, and culture within companies, and when it comes to loyalty, trust, and ‘having their backs,’ employees will never forget how they were treated.

Yvonne Abraham, a champion for the underdog at the Boston Globe, has written some wonderful pieces over the last few weeks, including one about pandemic priorities, ‘Lessons for life we shouldn’t soon forget’ on March 24th that opens with, “What would the world be like if the things that have become most important to us during this pandemic remained so? How would our lives look, if our values and priorities were frozen, right here?”

Her column concludes, “We would be more grateful for all we have, and more outraged at what others do not. We would – will – be happier on the other side of all this. If we remember.”

Amen. And please continue to be decent, kind, and respectful to every service industry worker you interact with the rest of your life. “It’s not that hard.” Thank you.

I love this piece by artist, Terrance Osborne:

Kenny Lopez on 4/5/20 for WGNO: Artist Terrance Osborne creates beautiful “Front Line” art piece: 

Please watch the video within the article where Terrance explains his inspiration for his work.

NEW ORLEANS– Famous artist Terrance Osborne has created a new piece of art, entitled “Front Line.” This piece honors the front line workers who are risking their lives in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
Osborne said this is a nod to Rosie the Riveter, and it honors all front line workers like doctors, nurses, medical professionals, grocery store workers, bus drivers, and emergency workers.
Osborne will be giving 1,000 posters to the local hospitals.  If you’d like to pre-order prints of “Front Line,” go to terranceosborne.com.

Don’t forget the Pluggers when this is over…

PLUGGERS by Gary Brookins 4/3/20. Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency, LLC. Brookins Art, LLC.

Ideas for blog posts, please email Patrick@servernotservant.com

Support for Server Not Servant via Venmo @Patrick-Maguire-32

Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing.

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Open Letter to Boston Leaders, from Asia Mei, Chef/Small Business Owner-Moonshine 152 South Boston, MA

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 3/29/2020

Reiterating a few critical excerpts from my post on 3/13/20 calling for a 3-month rent reprieve for restaurants:

“Social media and our email inboxes are flooded with messages about what restaurants and small businesses are doing to survive in the face of the crisis…The fear and anxiety are real because many lives, livelihoods, and jobs have already been impacted, and many are at considerable risk.”

“There are huge risks to temporary closures (like losing staff), and not all operators can afford zero income for 12 weeks and survive. Those who don’t have the financial reserves to weather the storm will be forced to close without a lifeline or dramatic adjustment to how they conduct business.”

“Something drastic needs to happen to save many restaurants, shops, and small businesses teetering on the brink of closing. As I have often stated before, the restaurant business is one of the most difficult grinds to make a living, and the profit margins (if any) are painfully thin. Despite thin margins, restaurants and small businesses are often the first to donate gift certificates, food, and products to help local charities in their communities. Now it’s time for us to step up and help them survive.”

“Rhetoric is bullshit. ‘Buy local.’ ‘Shop local,’ and ‘Support small businesses that support our communities,’ mean nothing if we’re not willing to step up and help restaurants and small businesses on the brink of survival.”

On Sunday morning, I read the following letter on the Industry United Facebook Group from well-respected chef/owner, Asia Mei of Moonshine 152 in South Boston, MA. Asia is hard-working, humble, and pours her soul into her work, her staff, and her life. I’m sure she speaks for millions of owners and restaurant industry workers in America and around the world in her letter below. Shared with Asia’s permission.

**Emailed 3/28/20**

Hello Governor Baker, Mayor Walsh, Councilor Frank Baker, and Councilor Ricardo Arroyo

I am so sorry that I have to reach out to you under circumstances like these. My Boston Family is constituted of many fiercely close friends, coworkers, and employees who have only spoken the highest of you, and my heart aches for the numerous complicated decisions you must have in front of you.

I am Asia Mei, the chef and owner of Moonshine 152 in Southie. We are the modern interpretation of a neighborhood bistro–a community driven small business, very much like a Cheers, where so much of the personality of the restaurant is composed of the people who frequent and work there. Councilor Baker, I believe you have visited yourself and been a patron at Moonshine several times over the years.

The vast majority of people that make up the regulars and staff at Moonshine are either Southie residents or from Dorchester. We have employed family members of the Bakers, Savin Hill families, and many who have originated from the D Street public housing development in Southie… many of which came to us with zero restaurant experience and were able to refocus their lives, learn/train, and become part of something much more than just a job.

I am like every small business owner in this city. I took a huge gamble, and poured my life savings, efforts, and dreams into this small business. Even with the current nightmarish circumstances, I would never take it back. Having been able to be a part of this community in a REAL way has been the biggest honor and pleasure of my life. I am a minority female, and even though the odds were always against us, striving to survive the tough industry was a battle that I was proud to be in to show people that living and working for their passions could be one and the same.

Moonshine 152 just celebrated it’s 5th anniversary, and ironically enough, with the loss of the parade and the ever-changing takeout/capacity restrictions, we never got to celebrate our 6th St. Patrick’s Day… Instead, on March 17th, we literally had to close.

The entire team is heartbroken. We were lucky enough to employ everyone from some of the longest tenured families in Dorchester to multiple people from your city offices. There wasn’t one person who didn’t say that Moonshine was the best job they’ve ever had, during the phone calls where I had to lay every single person off. This is a group of people, who like EVERYONE in the small business and restaurant industry in Boston, are not asking for extreme handouts; we are asking for a real way to go back to work and serve the city.

The small businesses/service industry needs expedited, significant relief. We NEED government mandated rent/mortgage freezes. Not all of us have landlords that will negotiate, and who can blame them if they are still responsible for the mortgages? Also, there is NO help from insurance. Personally, I will be held responsible for a year’s worth of full rent, no matter what. That isn’t my LLC, it is me. Declaring personal bankruptcy, bankruptcy of the small business, and losing the ability to employ and provide income for one of Boston’s hardest working teams will be a horrible reality.

If there is any way you can really help us, until more is figured out in the future with grants/loans, of course, it is through controlling rent both commercial and residential. THIS IS WITHIN YOUR CONTROL. I am not saying it is a solve-all, but all of these so-so, promissory “we will support and help small business” statements will not be enough. Our administration’s limited loans that further indebt us, the allowances to do takeout only–these are only bandaids for a system that is fundamentally broken now, and we need immediate and serious HELP.

I am a working chef and owner. I have worked every single day, 7/days a week, since we opened during the Snowpocalypse five years ago. In Southie, which is buried between the evolving neighborhood of Dorchester and the South End, Seaport, and Ink Block, we have been able to truly distinguish ourselves and stay true to EVERYTHING that I have found important to the community. We have always operated with integrity and would be heartbroken to lose that opportunity to be part of the community simply because the tight margins and restrictions didn’t make sense for the impact of this pandemic virus.

We poured over every permutation possible to stay open. Restaurants like ours not only would have continued to hemorrhage money due to the tight margins everyone is aware of–we were also receiving xenophobic threats and calls by the minute by staying open. That, in addition to the obvious concerns for the health and safety of my employees led to the necessity to close indefinitely. I also believe in doing all we can to “flatten the curve” to truly stop the virus as best we can. The struggle to reopen will not only be a burden about having had to pay things like past bills and rent while being closed, it will also be the unprecedented situation of finding our bearings in a new world. To have a chance, there needs to be help from top down, and it needs to be regulated.

Please feel free to contact me however you can if it helps. Yesterday, I converted my lifeless restaurant into a hub for much needed blood drives for the Red Cross, while I still could. In times like these, where there is such universal fear and self-preservation going on, we have to do what we can to be the best examples possible for those who follow us, and take care of each other. If you do not mandate help to the small business industries, we will not be able to be there on the flipside to provide service to the people the way it will be needed more than ever.

All of my best wishes and hopes for everything I know you can do for this city. We are all behind you, but we need your help too.

Best, Asia Mei

Email: Asia@moonshine152.com

Asia Twitter

Moonshine 152 Twitter

Asia Instagram

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