VOA Special English
US Restaurants Face Possible Ruin Because of Coronavirus Fears


    Months before coronavirus fears hit the United States, business was slow at Mediterranean Breeze, a family-owned Greek restaurant near Washington, D.C.

    Terry Kasotakis is the restaurant’s owner. Both he and Paul Johnson, the general manager, were sure business would improve when the weather got warm.

    “We were just kind of (waiting) for April because we have a big outdoor section and it's very popular, and it holds a lot of people,” Johnson said.

    Last week, business at the Virginia eatery was down 90 percent.

    Terry Kasotakis, owner of Mediterranean Breeze Restaurant in suburban Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy Paul Johnson)
    Terry Kasotakis, owner of Mediterranean Breeze Restaurant in suburban Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy Paul Johnson)

    The state of Virginia has told police to enforce a 10-person limit in restaurants. Several U.S. states have ordered all restaurants to close their dining rooms in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

    The governors of California, Connecticut and at least six other states are among those who have ordered restaurants and bars to close their dining rooms. The businesses are now limited to delivery or carry-out service only.

    The U.S. Congress is considering measures that would expand loans to small businesses affected by coronavirus. Those loans would not make up for financial losses, but they could make it possible for a restaurant or bar to stay in business.

    “The problem with a small restaurant, if you close, you still have to pay your insurance, you still have to pay an electric bill, you still have to pay rent,” explained economist Michael Hicks. He works at Ball State University in Indiana.

    Hicks notes that even with loans a small business will still lose money, “but you'll still be able to open, perhaps.”

    Anwar Halteh owns Waterfront Pizza in Foster City, near San Francisco, California. He expects to lose 70 percent of his business, but he thinks his restaurant will survive.

    “I expect (carry-out) to give us maybe 30 percent of business, but we cut down our overhead by 80 percent so we should be able to be okay,” he says. “I only keep three people in the whole restaurant cleaning and cooking.”

    Halteh says he does not have the money to keep paying the employees no longer working in the restaurant. But he believes things will go back to normal.

    “I think, after it’s over, everything's going to be a booming economy,” he said.

    The general manager of Virginia’s Mediterranean Breeze can only hope business will soon be back to where it was.

    "I'm…hopeful that the virus situation will start to subside in the next five to 10 days, although I know a lot of the professionals are saying that's not going to be the case,” Paul Johnson said.

    He added that the 15-year-old restaurant cannot survive more than a month under these conditions.

    “The local businesses…those are the ones that are really hurt here,” said Johnson. He hopes more people will give their carry-out business to family-owned restaurants like Mediterranean Breeze.

    I’m Pete Musto.

    VOA’s Dora Mekouar reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    manager – n. one who organizes at a business

    bar – n. a place where people go to drink alcohol

    delivery – n. to being to someone

    insurance – n. a payment made to protect against fire or accident

    rent – n. the price of using a house or store that belongs to someone else

    overhead – n. the cost of business

    booming – adj. growing quickly

    subside – v. to end

    professional – n. one who is educated and does a high paying job