Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Food businesses struggles during pandemic

A barista, wears a face mask while preparing coffee during his shift at Caffe Reggio in the Village. Photo by Sydney Fishman.

At Caffe Reggio, a quaint cafe on the corner of MacDougal and West Fourth Street yesterday, a waitress cleaned tables while baristas wearing white face masks made espresso drinks. 

April Amparo, 29, is a waitress at the cafe, a Village staple since 1927. She said that the coronavirus pandemic has hurt the income of the employees. 

“Caffe Reggio would be about 70% more full right now,” she said. “That’s how much the sales are impacted. We normally have two servers, but we don’t need two now. That shows you how slow it is.” 

The New York City food service industry has been hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic. “Social distancing”, a preventative method suggested by the World Health Organization, has New Yorkers staying at home and eating out less. Restaurants in Brooklyn have shut down because of the decrease in food industry sales, and some places are forced to limit their schedule to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

April Amparo, a server at Caffe Reggio, talks to customers about the Coronavirus. Photo by Sydney Fishman

Amparo said that as shifts are cancelled, she is worried about the hourly wages of people who don’t receive tips. 

“We are taking precaution because it can hurt peoples’ health,” Amparo said. “But we need the income. It’s affecting the cafe and I am sure it’s affecting the owner. I think what really worries me is people who don’t work off tips. They still need the hourly pay. I don’t have a family, but my coworkers have families.” 

Caffe Reggio has  stepped up cleaning  and  are giving sanitation wipes to customers. Amparo said they are being cautious. 

But she has other worries, in addition to her losing income, the coronavirus has also impacted her personal life. 

“I’m thinking like how am I gonna make money this week,” she said.  

Nearby Ben’s Pizzeria was desolate. 

 Raja Ali,  has worked for the pizza shop for 30 years. He stood by the pizza trays as he was scrolling on his phone.  

Raja Alli has worked at Ben’s Pizzeria for about 30 years. Photo by Sydney Fishman.

He is not sure if  the pizza shop can stay open over the next few weeks. 

“We are not making money,” he said. “On a weekend, we make above $1,000, but this weekend we made $450. We may have to close down next week.” 

He said they had to eliminate shifts at the pizzeria and they asked some of their employees not to come in. 

Ali is hoping they will qualify for the small business loan, which Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on March 8th in reaction to the loss of revenues because of COVID-19. Small businesses with fewer than 100 employees who have seen sales decrease of at least 25% are eligible to apply for the zero interest loan. 

“I hope this doesn’t go on for long,” he said despairingly. “I am not worried just about myself ,but about everybody.”

In Washington Square Park, NY Dosas, a food cart  has been a tradition for 18 years.  But they had to close down for a few days because of the virus. 

“More than 55% of our business is down because of the coronavirus,” said Thiru Kumar, the cart’s owner, as he checked on the samosas he was preparing. “We are open every other day now. We stay open when we can.”

But everything about running the business is hard with the pandemic looming over the city.

“We have four or five days of supplies,” Kumar said. “Everything is out, and the shops are empty.” 

But he is holding on to hope. 

“I think New York city will come through more than other places, he said. “They can’t shut down for long. New York comes through fast with everything. More than other places.” 

Thiru Kumar, the owner of Ny Dosas, at Washington Square Park during the summer. Photo by NY Dosas.

He said that while his business will hurt, he wants people to be conscious and stay home to prevent contaminating other people. 

“People just need to be conscious, wash your hands. Stay home. Respect other people,” he said. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city will be signing an executive order prohibiting restaurants from serving people food except for take-out and delivery orders. The order will begin on Tuesday, at 9 a.m., and will be enforced for an indefinite amount of time. 

For now, small businesses are focusing on the sales that they can make during the pandemic. Kumar said that he still has a few customers visiting his food cart. 

“Neighbors come and support us,” he said. “A lot of people write to us on Facebook, they miss us. It will be about two or three weeks, and things will go back to normal.” 



Other Stories in Special Report: Shutdown: The Coronavirus

COVID-19 fuels fruit packers strike in Washington State

Madeline Gunderson May 29, 2020

Boston springs slowly back to life

Thomas Hengge May 28, 2020

A dictatorship called COVID-19

Alpha Kamara May 28, 2020

During pandemic, Rio de Janeiro residents fear police

Marina Guimaraes May 27, 2020

Recovering from drugs during a pandemic

Kyla Milberger May 26, 2020

  Covid-19 takes away the communal joy at Eid-al-Fitr celebration

Narkwor Kwablaa May 25, 2020

Beloved old school game sees boom in numbers during coronavirus quarantine

Michael Yang May 15, 2020

Coronavirus leaves the fate of some beloved New York events uncertain

Emily Glass May 15, 2020

South Africa’s lockdown exposes inequalities

Kathleen Taylor May 14, 2020

Churchgoers find spiritual growth through virtual services 

Harrison Tsui May 14, 2020

” I’m working with COVID patients tonight”

Margaret Guzman May 14, 2020

Singles connect on Tinder to fight quarantine blues 

Yaroslava Bondar May 14, 2020

Jewish traditions during a pandemic

Sydney Fishman May 13, 2020

The Bible and Coronavirus

Jonathan Sarabia May 13, 2020

Doctor uses social media to give advice and hope

Sope Aluko May 12, 2020

First Sandy, Now COVID: Lower East Side Activists Grapple With Construction for Climate Project

Izzie Ramirez May 12, 2020

Dating during a pandemic

Bessie Liu May 12, 2020

The last reponders

Shiyu Xu May 11, 2020

When the pandemic hits a shelter for abused boys 

Amanda Perez Pintado May 11, 2020

Portugal contains the coronavirus despite Spain’s woes

Catarina Lamelas Moura May 11, 2020

Warm weather brings crowds to Prospect Park

Bessie Liu May 11, 2020

New York coronavirus numbers continue to fall

Jonathan Sarabia May 10, 2020

Living through the pandemic while a loved one is behind bars

Amanda Perez Pintado May 10, 2020

Pandemic ends all high school senior year traditions

Jonathan Sarabia May 10, 2020

Coronavirus might have caused the death of many children who were misdiagnosed 

Ximena Del Cerro May 9, 2020

Farmers destroy staggering amounts of food even as food lines grow

Karen Camela Watson May 9, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic threatens border towns in Mexico

Sydney Fishman and Ximena Del Cerro May 9, 2020

Pence’s press secretary tests positive for Covid-19

Shiyu Xu May 8, 2020

During pandemic NYC tenants in limbo

John DiLillo May 8, 2020

Llamas could be coronavirus heroes

Catarina Lamelas Moura May 8, 2020

Lawmakers, Legal Experts Clash Over Much Needed Business Interruption Insurance Coverage for Small Businesses

James Duffy May 8, 2020

Rent relief in NY, JetBlue’s flyover and Trump’s valet tests positive for coronavirus in today’s news

Amanda Perez Pintado May 7, 2020

Coronavirus tears through the Navajo Nation 

Amanda Perez Pintado May 7, 2020

In Singapore, spaces close, but restaurants open

Yifan Yu May 6, 2020

Press secretary calls Fauci testifying before congress “publicity stunt”

Kathleen Taylor May 6, 2020

Harry Potter and the Magical Malady of the Movies

Ahad Sanwari May 6, 2020

Trump speaks to human loss, Cuomo lashes out at President’s comments

Catarina Lamelas Moura May 5, 2020

PPE in the city

Narkwor Kwabla May 5, 2020

Boring Politics is Good Politics – Especially in a Pandemic

Serafina Smith May 5, 2020

Stuck: Life under quarantine in Rio de Janeiro

Marina Guimaraes May 5, 2020

New York’s Emptiness

Maria Abreu May 5, 2020

In an Airbnb Room During Lockdown in Jamaica, Queens

Dayo Paul May 4, 2020

What Temporary Means: Portraits of family at home

Guillermo Manning May 4, 2020

Stockholm Stays Open

Tatiana Kireeva May 4, 2020

NYC now producing its own coronavirus test kits

Maureen Mullarkey May 3, 2020

Miss you, mom: Spending Ramadan together through a screen

Maznah Shehzad May 3, 2020

Life in front of a screen

Patricio Zenklussen May 3, 2020

Coronavirus and the Shincheonji

Bessie Liu May 3, 2020

It’s The Little Things

Sope Aluko May 3, 2020

Days In, Days Out: A doctor’s life during Covid-19

Elsa Benamouzig May 2, 2020