Struggling DC restaurants continue to give back to the community amid pandemic

While many of D.C.’s most beloved restaurants are struggling to survive, they’re still giving back.

Take Ben’s Chili Bowl, where ownership said business is down about 80 percent with only one of their seven locations currently open. They’ve still been donating food to doctors, nurses, and first responders nearly every day.

CORONAVIRUS BY THE NUMBERS: DC, Maryland and Virginia coronavirus case total

“The future is uncertain but we do have hope,” Vida Ali said Wednesday as police officers scooped up dozens of half-smokes laid out on a counter behind her.

Similar stories are playing out across the DMV.

Around the corner at Busboys and Poets on 14th Street Northwest, founder Andy Shallal said sales are down about 75 percent from a year ago, but he’s still supporting local artists by paying for inspirational murals in his storefront windows.

The idea has even caught on, now spreading to about 80 different stores in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia.

“All these dark windows look kind of ominous, and I thought wouldn’t it be nice to have some positive messages on them.” Shallal said.

But make no mistake, the future remains uncertain. The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington reported that at least 148 restaurants in the DMV have temporarily closed, with more than 14,000 restaurant workers filing for unemployment just in D.C.

Add it all up and you’ve got an unpredictable virus wreaking havoc – and a business community vowing to fight back.

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“We would like every store to reopen,” Ali said. “That’s the goal. Will it? We’ll see what the future holds.”

“We’ll come back,” Shallal said. “It’ll be different than we were when we started. It’ll take a while for us to figure out what that will look like, but in due time I think this will be history, and we’ll be thinking about it saying I survived 2020.”