Fil-Am restaurants in D.C. metro area struggle to stay afloat

[About the Photo Above: “I was struck by the stark emptiness inside Manila Oriental Market in Springfield when I stopped by recently. A year ago, on any given Sunday, this place would be rippling with laughter as families, friends and neighbors dined together to celebrate special occasions or just connect with each other. But COVID-19 has taken over, shutting down in-door dining altogether. Back in February, President Trump said the coronavirus is “going to disappear … like a miracle.” But the virus is still here. What have disappeared are the chairs and dining tables that drew people to come here.” – Paul I. Tañedo, Photographer]

[About the Photo Above: “I was struck by the stark emptiness inside Manila Oriental Market in Springfield when I stopped by recently. A year ago, on any given Sunday, this place would be rippling with laughter as families, friends and neighbors dined together to celebrate special occasions or just connect with each other. But COVID-19 has taken over, shutting down in-door dining altogether. Back in February, President Trump said the coronavirus is “going to disappear … like a miracle.” But the virus is still here. What have disappeared are the chairs and dining tables that drew people to come here.” – Paul I. Tañedo, Photographer]

WASHINGTON, DC (Part I) — Among the biggest casualties of the coronavirus is the restaurant industry. In the first three months of the crisis, the National Restaurant Association reported losses of $120 billion.  By May, the industry lost over 5.5 million of 20.5 million jobs.

In the DC-Maryland-Virginia area, state shelter-in-place mandates forced many businesses to shut down in mid-March. Hit hard by the pandemic, Filipino American restaurant and catering business owners have had to downsize, suspend indoor dining, and relieve staff to cope with the dramatic plunge in business. To survive, many have resorted to creative and innovative ways.

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Purple Patch, in the District’s Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, is now a market while also offering food-to-go services. “Our whole operation is a new venture for us,” says Owner and Chef Patrice Cleary, who has run the restaurant for six years.

Purple Patch Chef Patrice Cleary

Purple Patch Chef Patrice Cleary

“We’d never run a market before. We’ve never done the level of carryout or delivery that we do now. But we pushed ourselves, knowing we could do anything we wanted as long as we all believe in what we were doing.  Our private event space is now a Butcher’s Market, so that the community don’t have to travel far to get good quality meat, and our eight-space parking lot is now a dine-out area.”

Tiki on 18th and The Game Sports Bar in the Adams Morgan neighborhood re-opened five weeks after COVID broke out. The front parking space has a few tables and umbrellas for dining. Owner Jojo Valenzuela says he has to do with half the amount of seats, and no room for standing, which is what creates volume sales for bars. He continues to accept orders and deliver them to homes in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church.

Jojo Valenzuela makes a delivery.

Jojo Valenzuela makes a delivery.

“Like many other restaurants, we are struggling really hard to stay afloat,” Valenzuela said. “We also have families to support. But we are blessed to have good and generous clientele who are extra patient and tip generously.”

Cathal Armstrong, owner and chef of Kaliwa Restaurant at DC’s wharf, had to let go of so many good staffers and cut down the remaining staff’s salaries by 50%. He thought the shutdown would only last a few weeks. Now, six months later, they are still adjusting to take-out and deliveries, and slowly opening to patio dining. “We all brought in our bicycles thinking we would be slammed but actually none of us ever rode them,” he says.

Julie Cortez of Kaliwa Restaurant

Julie Cortez of Kaliwa Restaurant

To Armstrong, the biggest challenge is trying to figure out how to survive the coming winter months, when business will fall dramatically, with another round of layoffs and wage cuts.

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“We will focus on delivery and catering from about Thanksgiving until the end of February,” he says. “Then we’ll pray for a vaccine by Spring of 2021. The future is looking grim. I think it will take the restaurant business years to recover from this disaster. We will continue to focus on our food and craft, and continually looking for artisan ingredients from the culture we try to honor.”

A Taste of the World in Herndon, Virginia, will have the space available for rent for weekend functions and customized menus to suit individual budgets. With less staff, Owner and Chef Liza Israni relies on her husband and son for additional help. They had delivered food to front liners in the DMV area, and provided discounted prices to those in need. “Not knowing how long before we could resume pre-covid sales is my biggest fear,” she says.

Owners Merlyn and John Eda of Northstar Café & Grill Catering in Oxon Hill, Maryland, said they would “shift to making food products and supply businesses that need them.” Their highly-regarded catering business has served many community events over the years. “Today, we’re barely hanging on, but for how long? Catering may close down completely.  We will hopefully be the supplier to businesses that need our products. Hope springs eternal!”

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The Northstar crew prepares a lechon for delivery.

The Northstar crew prepares a lechon for delivery.

Owner Luming Pascual of Ate Luming’s in Oxon Hill, said it is now offering delivery as a standard service and changing its hours. She has also encouraged her staff to use their vacations during these slow times.

Javier Fernandez of Kuya Ja

Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly in Rockville, Maryland, remains open for pre-orders and pick-ups. Owner Javier Fernandez says staff safety is a priority, so they are limiting their exposure to the public by cutting back business hours. “While we miss talking to people and  getting the chance to see many customers taste our lechon for the first time, we may not reach that stage until we feel more comfortable doing so.” To be continued tomorrow, Sept. 22, 2020

Javier Fernandez of Kuya Ja.

Javier Fernandez of Kuya Ja.

Directory of Fil-Am restaurants in the DC-Maryland-Virginia Area:

A Taste of the World, 283 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, VA. Tel. 571.235 8397

Ate Luming’s,  Owner: Luming Pascual, 9201 Livingston Road, Ft. Washington, MD., 301.265 9500

Bad Saint, 3226 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20010

BISTRO 1521, 900 N Glebe Rd #100, Arlington, VA 22203. Tel. 703.741.0917

Corner Q Filipino Restaurant, 8170 Silverbrook Rd, Lorton, VA 22079. Tel. 703.690.0777

Fairfax Inn Restaurant, 2946 Sleepy Hollow Rd, Falls Church, VA 22044; (703) 532-0616

Filipino Market and Café, 759 Hungerford Dr, Rockville MD 20850, Owner: Marie Jane Rumingan, 301.217.5920

JULIANA’S, 7230 Nathan Ct., Manassas, VA. 20109. Tel. (703) 335-9377

KALIWA, Owner and Executive Chef: Cathal Armstrong. 751 Wharf Street SW, Washington, DC., 516 4739

KAMAYAN Fiesta 2020, Jhett Duran, Owner and Executive Chef, 7700-B. Backlick Road, Springfield, VA 22050

KC Filipino Restaurant, Owner: Alex and Nancy Siaobungco, 15108 Frederick Rd, Rockville, MD 20850. (301) 424-1100

KUSINA by Egg Karne, 10780 Fairfax, Blvd, Fairfax, VA.. 571.308 6733

Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly, Owner & Chef: Javier Fernandez, 5268-H Nicholson Ln, North Bethesda, MD., 240.669 4383

Manila Mart, 5023 Garrett Ave, Beltsville, MD. 20705. Tel. 301.931.0086

Manila Oriental Market, Owners: Emil and Cristina Zerruda, 7026 Commerce St, Springfield, VA 22150. Tel. 703.379.0595

Matthew’s Grill, Co-owner & Chef: Raymond Domingo, 213 Muddy Branch Road, Gaithersburg, MD. Tel. 301.990 8858

Northstar, Catering and Carryout, Owners: Merlyn & John Eda, 7400 Livingston Road, Oxon Hill, Maryland. Tel. 567 4101

Pinoy Market & Café, 9675 Liberia Ave, Manassas, VA 20110. Tel. 703.331.1337

Purple Patch DC, Owner and Chef: Patrice Cleary, 3155 Mt. Pleasant St NW, Washington, DC 20010. Tel. 202.299-0022

Tiki on 18th and The Game Sports Pub, Owner and Chef: Jo-Jo Valenzuela. 2411 18th Street, NW, Washington, DC. Tel. 846 1952

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TAGS: Filipino American restaurants DC-Maryland-Virginia area, Filipino American restaurants in pandemic, pandemic business impact, pandemic impact on Fil-Am restaurants
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