Boston restaurants prepare to shut doors for 3 weeks

BOSTON (WHDH) – Boston restaurant owners and workers are worriedly staring down three weeks of no dine-in business after a statewide order banning sit-down service.

Gov. Charlie Baker ordered all bars and restaurants to stop dine-in service starting Tuesday though April 5 in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. That means that for the first time in its history, the Union Oyster House in Faneuil Hall will close.

“We will comply, we will be open when we’re told,” said Union Oyster House president Joe Milano, who said the restaurant’s 90 employees will be paid during that time and its food will be donated to a shelter. “We’ll be OK, we’ll manage, but in the long term this is very very difficult.”

Jim Tziavas of Jim’s Deli in Brighton said he understood the need for restaurant closings.

“We’re doing our best to keep going but you gotta be safe than sorry,” Tziavas said. “It’ll be tough but we’ll get through it.”

For 13 years, Mela Restaurant in the South End has been serving up authentic Indian food.

Now, the coronavirus has turned the entire Mass. food industry upside down — forcing many to change their business models altogether.

“We will stay open for take-out and deliveries,” Jatinder Singh, partner in Mela Restaurant said, “We have to because we have to pay the rent we have to pay the insurance and everything.”

The ban on dining in means Mela Restaurant stands to lose 60 percent of its regular revenue meaning it will have to make a slash in its workforce.

“I’m cutting almost half of our workforce,” Singh said. “So only a couple of people working in the kitchen and a couple people working outside. You are seeing that.”

These unprecedented measures are impacting restaurants everywhere.

Lehemiae Palasios, a manager at Rizzo’s Pizza in Jamaica Plain said his wife is home taking care of their daughter who cannot go to school.

He is fearful of what might happen to his family should they lose his income too.

“Right here, in America, it’s a little bit difficult for people who don’t have a choice only to work,” he said. “If you don’t work you don’t have anything to take care of your home.”

But it’s unclear how many places will move forward.

“Things are changing so dramatically, so quickly, it’s hard to plan the next step,” said Jim Quelle of Sons of Boston in Fanueil Hall. “It’s hard to know what to do.”

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