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Mon Apr 6, 2020, 04:15 AM

"It Was Gone Overnight" One restaurant's struggle to weather the pandemic.

Eric Wang first noticed something was wrong on March 9. It was a Monday morning, and the co-owner of Thamee, a Burmese restaurant in D.C. that had just been named a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant, was doing his routine count of reservations for that evening. Usually, the number of bookings will rise between Sunday night and Monday morning, as guests making last-minute dinner plans sign up for tables online. On March 9, Wang saw the reservations drop by half overnight.

Many restaurants operate on wafer-thin margins, with little financial cushion to sustain the business through prolonged periods of diminished income. Thamee, which opened in May 2019 and made the Washington Post’s list of best restaurants of that year, was no different. The restaurant had only just completed its first five straight weeks of profitability when those reservation cancellations started rolling in. Like many new restaurants, Thamee was still in debt, with just about one month’s worth of rent and one pay period’s worth of wages on hand. Wang, 39, and his Thamee co-owners—Simone Jacobson, 35, and her Burma-born mother, 67-year-old executive chef Jocelyn Law-Yone—had to act quickly to avoid bleeding money on hourly staffers who might show up at the restaurant to find empty tables and not enough work to do.

The owners took one server off the schedule each night and had a bartender do double-duty serving tables. They dismissed members of the kitchen staff two hours early during every dinner service. As their customers began to avoid restaurants for fear of contracting or spreading the novel coronavirus, Thamee’s management could only try to keep the business afloat. At that point, Wang said, there was still no signal from government officials that public establishments should do anything differently to protect their employees or guests, or that there might be assistance coming for employees whose hours were dwindling. “There were no guidelines other than ‘wash your hands and don’t touch your face,’ ” Wang said. “For two weeks, that was really all we got, from the end of February to when the shit hit the fan.”


Every town has had its own shit-hitting-fan moment in the coronavirus timeline, when official response escalates from personal hygiene PSAs to business closures and isolation mandates. For D.C., it came on Sunday, March 15, when Mayor Muriel Bowser handed down an order requiring restaurants to eliminate bar seating and keep 6-foot gaps between all tables. Thamee had finished its brunch service and was less than an hour from welcoming dinner guests—both meals with a smaller-than-usual crowd—when Jacobson, the only owner in the restaurant that day, got the word. “I just went into crisis mode,” she said.

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Reply "It Was Gone Overnight" One restaurant's struggle to weather the pandemic. (Original post)
Demovictory9 Apr 2020 OP
madaboutharry Apr 2020 #1
Journeyman Apr 2020 #2
Demovictory9 Apr 2020 #4
Demovictory9 Apr 2020 #3
Cha Apr 2020 #5

Response to Demovictory9 (Original post)

Mon Apr 6, 2020, 04:29 AM

1. Do you have a link to the story?

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Response to Journeyman (Reply #2)

Mon Apr 6, 2020, 04:42 AM

4. thx

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Response to Demovictory9 (Reply #3)

Mon Apr 6, 2020, 08:37 AM

5. Thanks for that, Demo. It was super

interesting. I've been worried about all those people in the restaurant business.

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