Businesses across Newark have seen their highest and lowest points of operation in the past year and a half due to the pandemic. Some had to be forcibly closed because they did not have enough funds to pay bills, while some were fortunate enough to stay afloat despite lower foot traffic on the streets when restrictions started to take hold.
Marcus B&P, a restaurant located on Halsey Street, was forced to close down on March 15, 2020 as a “precautionary measure in response to COVID-19” according to an Instagram post on its page.
“When the pandemic first hit, Chef Marcus immediately was in touch with World Central Kitchen to convert his restaurants to serve as community kitchens,” the restaurant’s Chef de Cuisine Yudi Torres said. “In Newark, thanks to the incredible support of Audible, that work grew into Newark Working Kitchens and Marcus B&P was proud to be the first and pilot restaurant of this incredible initiative, which collectively has served over 1.2 million meals to those in need.”
On Oct. 27, 2021, more than a year and a half later, the restaurant officially reopened; it has been a positive return to business so far according to Torres. Despite this, she mentioned that with its location in downtown Newark, “the landscape of day-to-day life is still not what it was prior to the pandemic, with many still working from home.”
With its reopening, however, the restaurant made sure to consider how guests may want to dine now. “B&P is named for the Swedish concept of ‘back pocket,’ a casual spot where you feel welcome anytime, day or night,” Torres said. “We’ve built in that flexibility so you can opt for grab-n-go meals to take and eat at home, or decide to socialize and dine in or grab a drink at the bar.”
With classes back in person, Marcus B&P has also seen support from students in the few weeks back in business. “We love our student guests! We’re thrilled to have them back again,” she added. The restaurant is currently open Wednesdays to Fridays from noon to 8 p.m. and encourages students to stop by and support a recently reopened local Newark business.
Located on Sussex Avenue, Intrinsic Café also emphasized that students being on campus helped its business grow. Robert Kim, owner of the café, said that although it has about 70 percent of operations as it had in 2019, he recognizes that “people who work and live around the area are coming out more often.”
He noted, “We are still busy during the day time but we do see the decrease of customers after 6 p.m. when everyone is going back home.”
There have been certain models that Kim had to adjust due to the pandemic; one of which includes the implementation of social media to enhance and promote their business because more people have stayed at home since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition, “the pricing had to be updated to meet the needs of demand and supply,” he mentioned. “Due to the whole container — import and export — issues that every company is having, local stores like us are having difficulty buying supplies.”
Another major aspect that had to be considered is the sanitization and safety of customers as well as employees. “All the safety rules and keeping the Café clean is something we want to keep even after most pandemic restrictions have been lifted,” Kim said. “I personally think it’s a rule that is good to keep even after everything [regarding the pandemic] has happened. Plus, there is nothing wrong about always thinking about the safety of our workers and customers.”
He explained more in detail, “We still follow all the regulations that the state provides. Following that, we try to make sure everything is always wiped and clean. But most of all, if any of my workers feel sick, I make sure to give them the time and rest that they need without questions.”
The café has received support from regular customers, friends and families in the area to bring their restaurant up to speed, hopefully as it was before COVID-19 hit.
“Intrinsic Café has been in business for 16 years already. We have people who celebrated their graduation, studied countless hours for their classes or exams, had a thanksgiving potluck dinner and, of course, had bubble tea for the first time. We are very happy to be open and be part of college and Newark culture,” Kim highlighted. “We really hope to see this pandemic get better and more people freely enjoy their daily life routine. Until then, we hope to keep our door open for all our fans, friends and family!”
Sigri BBQ is an Indian restaurant located on University Avenue. The recent weeks have seen an increase in business, to the point where co-owner Utkarsh Yadav said that it’s a “little better” than what it was before the pandemic hit. This may be due to a rise in the use of online ordering, which has grown to be a prominent part of the operations’ model in response to the virus.
The restaurant has worked with Newark Working Kitchens to keep their business afloat; Yadav also mentioned that it has received loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, “an SBA-backed loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis” according to the United States Small Business Association’s website.
Additionally, it has obtained grants from The New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which according to its website, “grows the state’s economy and increases equitable access to opportunity by supporting high-quality job creation, catalyzing investment and fostering vibrant, inclusive community development.”
Yadav mentioned that it would greatly help business at Sigri BBQ if commercial buildings started operating normally, namely those of Prudential and Audible.
Academy Street’s Dario’s Tex Mex has seen a rise in business in the past few weeks. Owner Dario was pleased to say that the implementation of delivery services has “helped tremendously,” bringing the restaurant more up to speed than it was before the pandemic.
He made sure to adapt as new rules and regulations came up along with the virus; “if you don’t make any changes, you become a dinosaur and die off,” he explained. Delivery was that major change in this case, and it has paid off immensely.
Dario has looked forward to the support from NJIT and its students so far and encourages more members of the Newark community to promote local businesses.