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'It's been complete devastation' | Restaurant owners describe surviving coronavirus pandemic

Restaurants across the metro region enter week 2 of Phase 2 reopening.

WASHINGTON — As more places around the country experience spikes in cases, some states are pausing their reopening plans, or even forcing things to shut again. D.C. is cautiously forging ahead as we head into the second week of reopening.

During the height of the pandemic, restaurants like Sababa had to close their doors, and others had to fall back on serving only takeout meals.

"We've seen nothing like this. The restaurants were closed for four months," said Ashok Bajaj, founder of Knightsbridge Restaurant Group.

It was the choice many restaurant groups in the area were forced into. The coronavirus pandemic caused Bajaj to rethink his business plan.

"We have about 50-70 people working in the restaurants during this period. We're gradually bringing them back now as five of them are open for indoor dining," Bajaj added.

He once employed about 500 people, but had to furlough most of them since he was only pulling in less than 10 percent of his normal revenue.  

It's a similar story for Amy Brandwein, chef and owner of Centrolina and Piccolina.

"The impact has been severe. I’d say, right now, we're seeing about 30% of our normal revenue," Brandwein added.

She's been able to maintain her staff throughout the pandemic thanks to paycheck protection loans, but as Phase 2 continues, it's the turn of tables that brings new concerns.

"Well, if we’re lucky, 50% of our normal, at the max, (we'll get) 50% of our normal dining revenue. This is complete devastation for any restaurant that you’re going to," Brandwein said. 

Bajaj said he's having to reinvent the fine dining experience.

"People never took out food from fine dining restaurants before, but now they feel comfortable taking out the food from fine dining restaurants. I think this will continue," Bajaj said.

Both restaurant groups also provided delivery services through third-party apps, but they want people to come and try the new social-distancing dining experience and said this probably one of the safest times to eat in a restaurant with all the extra emphasis being placed on sanitation.

RELATED: Here's what's reopening under Prince George's County's modified Phase 2

RELATED: Metro reopens 15 rail stops, 14 additional bus stops open back up Monday

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