Economic pain from Covid upends lives of restaurant owners, entertainers

Representational image

The reality has not yet sunk in for Pepe Diaz that the beloved deli he ran with his brother for more than 30 years is permanently shut.

"The camaraderie with all the students and the regular customers, I miss all that," he said, outside Howard Deli in Washington.

Before the pandemic, the shop had been a lively neighborhood hangout. But sales plummeted without the foot traffic of students from Howard University and the local high school.

Making matters worse, Diaz's brother Kenny Gilmore suffered several strokes. With bills piling up, the brothers closed the deli in January.

"This had to be the worst. Everything else we weathered through," Diaz said of the pandemic.

Howard Deli is not alone.

By the end of 2020, about 17% of all U.S. restaurants - about 110,000 - had closed long term or shuttered for good, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Matt Strickland is determined that his business will not be next.

The owner of Gourmeltz in Fredericksburg, Virginia, is continuing to operate his restaurant even though he said his license had been revoked by health officials for failing to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

"The people who are putting these mandates and regulations on us, they haven't missed one paycheck. They haven't suffered through this like we have," said Strickland.

Strickland said he has many supporters in the community. But health officials say they have received more than 50 complaints about Gourmeltz over its flouting of safety measures such as wearing masks, according to local media.

The Spotsylvania County health department did not respond to a request for comment.

The economic pain goes well beyond the restaurant industry. The U.S. economy lost 22 million jobs at the height of the pandemic and is still 10 million jobs short of where it was a year ago.

Before the pandemic, Sharon Clark spent 11 years as a full-time jazz singer, traveling to Russia, France and South Africa.

So when a year's worth of concerts were canceled in early 2020, she panicked.

"For the first time in my whole 11 years, I was asking myself and asking God, 'What am I going to do?'" said Clark, a single mother of a teenage daughter. "Who's going to keep the cell phones on... who's going to pay the cable bill?"

Clark said she feels optimistic that her singing work will pick up by summer.

"I'm going to sing until I can't anymore. But I'm going to learn to do something else - just in case," she said.

 

(Reporting by Vanessa Johnston; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)



Dear Reader,


Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel