Six months into the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants are still struggling to stay open

Six months into the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants are still struggling to stay open

BOSTON — A wave of restaurant closings has swept across the state. Some are hanging on like Orinoco, with its three locations in Boston, Brookline and Cambridge.

“Yes, we haven’t laid off anybody yet,” said owner Carlos Rodriguez.

But according to Bob Luz, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, 20% of restaurants in the state are closed for good.

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“We’ve lost 3,600 of 16,000 restaurants," said Luz. "It’s nothing short of devastating, heartbreaking and gut-wrenching.”

Rodriguez opened Orinoco in Boston’s South End 17 years ago, adding two more locations in Brookline and Cambridge.

Right now, he’s making decisions week to week on his operations.

“We are evaluating right now which of the three restaurants can survive," said Luz.

Rodriguez has always given back to the community. When the pandemic started, they could only do take out, so he decided to help and along with customers he raised money to feed front line workers.

“I think it was about five or six thousand meals throughout the whole process," said Rodriguez.

Since then, outdoor dining has helped but the cold weather will soon put an end to that.

“The restaurants still open are looking at winter and saying, ‘Oh my, oh my,’" said Rodriguez.

The Massachusetts Restaurant Association is looking for help to get more federal and state aid. Rodriguez says it’s vital.

“At this point we are at 30% of what we normally do, [and] 30% is not enough to run a business," said Rodriguez.

Both Luz and Rodriguez say losing restaurants means losing jobs - vital to the overall economy.

“The restaurant industry in the us is one of the biggest employers as a whole in the country," said Rodriguez.

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