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One NYC Restaurant Owner Speaks Up About The Shutdowns – ‘This time really feels like death…’

In the absence federal action or instruction, the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut took matters into their own hands. On Monday they announced standardized tri-state rules in an effort to shrink crowd sizes and to close a number of non-essential businesses.

Together they agreed not to allow crowds with gatherings of over 50 people, anywhere. Casinos, as well as theaters and gyms, would close region-wide on Monday night, March 16, 2020. While bars and restaurants would be limited to take-out and delivery only as of 8 p.m. These temporary closures would remain in effect for as long as it took to protect public health. Grocery stores, however, would remain open.

On the 400-block of Hudson Street, the restaurant owner of Oscar’s Place shared his insights and concerns at such a strange time in life. Known to neighbors as a “hilarious British owner,” Neil Smith regularly welcomes each new patron into his petite establishment with open arms and utter zeal.  

After talking to the NYC restaurant owner for a short time about the COVID-19 pandemic that has overtaken the world, one thing became abundantly clear. Above all else, “I am most concerned for the health and safety of my regulars,” Smith says straight-faced. Despite being known for constantly kidding around, Smith is surprisingly serious when discussing this subject.

“To be honest, this time really feels like death…like a death in the family. And it’s hard to get closure because it is a killer virus and there is no end, no cure,” he says

He goes on to describe how for him, to come all the way down from where he lives up in the Bronx to find his employees, and to look at the restaurant as being responsible for their futures is awfully sobering. Obviously, this virus has a big economic impact that he worries about for his and his family’s future and sure, he worries about himself—but there are so many others depending on the success of his small restaurant.

If he goes under who knows what they all will do?

“What about the supplier who sells me the loaves of bread? Or the mechanic who services the supplier’s delivery trucks that he no longer uses because I’m another customer who bit the dust? Yeah, it’s a whole chain reaction that is affected by the failure of just one branch of the industry. Kind of like a food chain, where one level of survival bleeds into the next. That’s what this pandemic threatens,” says Smith so eloquently. “And my regulars—I will never see them again if I go under,” he says.

That’s what makes Mr. Smith the saddest. Witty Neil Smith knows he’s made many special connections with people throughout the years, he admits “I feel immense sadness at the possibility of losing them,” says the NYC restaurant owner.