Sunday, December 27, 2020

Dead (Once-Treasured) Diners

It's happening all over. 

At NYT, "The Treasured Diners and Hidden Haunts That Covid-19 Closed for Good":

We gather today to mourn the 150-year-old restaurant that served up platters of fried chicken and creamed corn to Abilene, Kan. To bid farewell to the New Orleans cafe that was a destination for huge crab omelets and endless conversation. To raise one last glass to the tavern in Cambridge, Mass., where the regulars arrived at 8 a.m. and the Austin diner where Janis Joplin nearly sang the neon lights off the walls.

They were local landmarks — watering holes, shops and haunts that weathered recessions and gentrification, world wars and the Great Depression, only to succumb this year to the economic ravages of the coronavirus. This is their obituary.

Thousands of businesses have closed during the pandemic, but the demise of so many beloved hangouts cuts especially deep. They were woven into the identity of big cities and small towns, their walls lined with celebrity photos and Best Of awards. Some had been around a century. Others, like the Ma’am Sir Filipino restaurant in Los Angeles, needed just a few years to win the hearts of their neighborhoods.

Their closures have left blank spaces across the country as owners liquidate their memorabilia and wistful customers leave social-media tributes recalling first dates and marriage proposals. And there are new worries: If these institutions could not survive, what can? And who will be left standing, to hold our memories and knit our communities together, when this pandemic is over?


Also on Twitter

I picked up breakfast at our diner today, caught up with the owner like always, and asked how she’s doing. She shook her head as her eyes welled above her mask. I knew what that meant. She turned her back to her staff saying she didn’t want to cry in front of her employees.

She, like millions of others, is desperate for help from the federal government. She said the first round of PPP saved her business, but that was a long time ago and she’s on the brink again. She has followed the rules & spent money to build outdoor dining, but winter is here.

We all have done our best to support small businesses this year, but it’s not enough. It is infuriating that it took Congress this long to get a relief bill and unconscionable that the President sits on it while our friends and neighbors fight for their lives. Shame.