coronavirus

‘Excruciating': Restaurants Ask for State Help as Coronavirus Pandemic Throttles Industry

NBC Universal, Inc.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep the doors to many businesses closed, restaurant owners are making a plea for relief.

They are calling on state and local leaders for more assistance to make sure small businesses can re-open once the crisis is over.

Tiffani Faison owns four restaurants in Boston's Fenway neighborhood, including Sweet Cheeks, Orfano and Tiger Mama. After doing takeout for a brief period, all of them are now shuttered due to the virus.

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Fortunately, Faison's landlord is working with her, but she said many small businesses are not as lucky and the state needs to step in.

"Personally, it's excruciating," Faison said. "We need this now. We were really hoping something would happen before April 1 when rent was due."

Faison is calling for things like mandated rent relief and significant tax reductions for small businesses that are impacted. She said Gov. Charlie Baker's answer that no one can be evicted during this crisis is not sufficient.

"It needs to be a little more reassurance than just they can't come get you," Faison said.

Faison is not alone in her plea. Joshua Childs co-owns four restaurants, including Parlor Sports and Trina's Starlite Lounge in Somerville, which all closed in mid-March due to the virus. He said small-business loans are a positive step, but not enough for anyone to be certain their restaurants will survive.

"Without assistance, I don't know, and that's part of the fear -- the unknown," Childs said. "The toll is high thinking about the future of your business and the future of your community."

Childs said it could take more than a year for restaurants to recover once they are allowed to re-open, so any relief now will make a big difference.

"We want to be back more than anything. We want to welcome everybody back to our restaurants," Childs said.

They are reaching out to state and local leaders, hoping that when the pandemic passes, the restaurants customers remember are still here.

"If we don't come back, we will be relegated to cities and towns with cookie cutter businesses, and that's not who we are," Faison said. "That's not what makes Boston Boston."

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