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A week in the life of a restaurant owner, ahead of a COVID winter

Marielle Segarra Dec 14, 2020
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A Pasta Louise holiday gift basket. "I feel like my mind is just always kind of thinking about ways to keep people out and supporting us for the winter," says owner Allison Arevalo. Allison Arevalo
COVID-19

A week in the life of a restaurant owner, ahead of a COVID winter

Marielle Segarra Dec 14, 2020
Heard on:
A Pasta Louise holiday gift basket. "I feel like my mind is just always kind of thinking about ways to keep people out and supporting us for the winter," says owner Allison Arevalo. Allison Arevalo
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As of Monday, Dec. 14, indoor dining is banned again in New York City restaurants because of rising COVID-19 numbers.

That leaves restaurants in New York, as in other places, with only outdoor dining, which will be tricky as the weather gets colder.

Allison Arevalo owns a restaurant in Brooklyn called Pasta Louise. She kept a weeklong diary for us, as she, like many restaurant owners, faces yet another seismic change in the industry.

Pasta Louise’s cauliflower kale pesto with burrata. (Credit: Allison Arevalo)

Pasta Louise is located in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It’s named after Arevalo’s grandmother, who taught her how to cook, and it serves mainly fresh pasta, topped with things like meatballs and spicy red pesto. The seating is all outdoors, under heated awnings.

Kids make Christmas ornaments from dried pasta. (Credit: Allison Arevalo)

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Pasta Louise hosts an event for kids. They make Christmas ornaments from dried pasta and red glitter. It’s 40 degrees outside, but Arevalo is hopeful that a bunch of kids will show up — and that their parents buy a lot of hot chocolate and egg sandwiches.
The event goes well.

“In this neighborhood, there are so many kids, and as long as we can get the kids out, we can get the parents out,” she said.

On Monday, the restaurant is closed. Tuesday, business is slow.

Wednesday morning, Arevalo wakes up thinking about gift baskets. The restaurant is selling them for the holiday.

“I feel like my mind is just always kind of thinking about ways to keep people out and supporting us for the winter,” she said.

Allison Arevalo, center, kneeling, with her staff. (Courtesy of Allison Arevalo)

Later on Wednesday, business is so slow that she sends one of her servers home. She worries that she might have to lay off some of her 28 employees.

The rest of the day isn’t much better. But as she’s about to bike home, she sees some of the restaurant’s regulars sitting outside, and it lifts her mood. 

“One of them stopped me and told me to be careful because I wasn’t wearing my helmet,” she said. “And another guy was asking me what are we doing for Christmas platters, because he really likes meat and he wants a platter with more meat in it.”

Things start looking up by Thursday night — the restaurant actually has a waitlist. Same thing on Friday and Saturday. The restaurant also gets a ton of takeout orders.

On Saturday, Arevalo said that as long as New York doesn’t also ban outdoor dining, she thinks Pasta Louise can make it through December.

“The real challenge is going to be January and February,” she said, walking in the door to see her family after a long week.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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