Despite the fact that the pandemic is closing restaurants, people are still opening them

man walking dog in front of restaurant
An employee at Baja Sharkeez on Pier Plaza in Hermosa Beach, CA, rolls out heaters
Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Contributor (Getty Images)

Operating a restaurant is a risky proposition. It’s a low margin business with a million moving parts, every day brings unpredictable challenges, and of course, wait, there’s this pesky pandemic that’s been closing doors left and right. And yet people continue to open them, even during the pandemic.

CNN took a look into why there are still people opening up restaurants when their financial security may be precarious. Data taken from Yelp shows that the number of restaurant and food businesses that opened in 2020 was only down 16% from 2019; in the fourth quarter, that number dwindled to 4%, meaning people are still forging ahead.

One restaurant CNN spoke to, Communion, opened up in December 5, 2020, in Seattle’s historically black Central District. It’s owned by chef Kristi Brown, and her son, Damon Bomar. Like many restaurants, it had been in the works for years. Brown and Bomar had originally hoped for an opening in June, but the pandemic forced delays until December. Communion is part of a community effort to honor Central District’s black history, and it’s situated on the location of the first Black-owned bank in the Pacific Northwest. This effort is why Brown and Bomar are powering through.

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“The biggest thing for us is we’re fulfilling a need and not just for food in this area,” Bomar said. “Our goal and our vision was to create a sense of intimacy in Seattle for our community.”

Other restaurateurs have different reasons for opening during a pandemic/recession, whether because they’re chasing dreams of opening up their own places, or simply because they see opportunity for their establishments to succeed once the pandemic has settled. In a way it’s good to know people are powering ahead, because it gives me hope that we’ll see an end through this thing.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

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DISCUSSION

brickhardmeat
Brick HardMeat

Some good friends of mine are opening a carry-out restaurant in a prime location in a major city. Their catering business had been kicking ass before the pandemic but I frankly was shocked they were doing this. They explained that borrowing was super cheap now and they were taking advantage of some other pandemic relief programs that were intended to help small businesses like theirs. They feel confident once things return to “normal” (or some semblance of) they’ll hit the ground running. I wish them the best and they’ve beaten the odds before but deep down I’m terrified for them.