The Indicator from Planet Money - Inside A Restaurant's Final Days

We've heard about how hard it's been for restaurants to stay open during this pandemic. But what we often don't hear is that closing can be just as tough.

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Content Keywords: Jamie reporter Kitchen Cafe

in a lot of ways, it feels like a typical morning at the Kitchen Cafe. That's the smallest ships to rejoin in downtown, Boston.

Chalkboards in artsy Prince decorate the walls and the air is buzzing with the sound of breakfast sandwiches and burritos in the Macon.

Kung Fu tea. Jaime Valdez, his wife owned the place picture of middle-aged guy with a shotgun of wavy salt and pepper hair and I think so. Glide back and forth behind the counter, puke Agent Lee stops and chats up a customer or those out an elbow bump like we said typical day except for this today is the kitchen cafes very last day of business. So a lot of customers are here to say. Goodbye.

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2 hours later. The last order is wrong up in the final customers Shuffle out the door. Jamie plops down on a bench and he looks around the room. How do you feel right now?

My friend and I feel relief I feel relieved how I've been looking forward to Holly Dunn, you know.

For me to stay open. I need to set up a sandwich for $50. Nobody's going to pay me $50 for a sandwich, but that's my cost right now.

What is the indicator from Planet Money? I'm Cardiff Garcia and I'm a dreamer a reporter a WBUR in Boston in recent months. We've heard a lot about how hard it is for restaurants that stay open during this pandemic. But what we don't often hear is that closing can be just as tough the National Restaurant Association estimates that more than a hundred thousand restaurants have gone into hibernation or out of business entirely and today Adrian. You've brought us a story about exactly that between rent and labor and insurance The Kitchen Cafe was losing about $10,000 a month. So yeah closing was actually a weight off Jamie's shoulders, but the process of shuttering restaurant isn't as simple as locking the doors and walking away. There are all sorts of Hoops to jump through contract that is all spaces to clean final bills to pay and then there's the emotional cost of terminating a

Virginia me that dream started in 2016. That's when he and his wife moved up from New York City to Boston and Jamie at first took a job managing a shellfish warehouse. But soon after that he quit and the two of them thought now is the time to take a chance give me says they weren't able to get a loan so they had to put about $200,000 of their own money to get the place up and running. I was very excited the beginning we buying a restaurant with buying a restaurant by once it gets closer and then here's the key. It was very very scary to think I have I have memories and I have pictures of days that we didn't have no traffic at all. But as the months went by things pick up the kitchen Cafe became a go-to spot for office workers at students in the area and after a few years Jamie start to feel like hey, we made it. He figures they average about five hundred orders a day. There was times that be

Well, we open at 7. We had a line outside already. So, you know, it was was great by the middle of 2019. Jamie says he and his wife started seeing some extra money in your bank account. It started making money on their investment and then the pandemic happened to you know, there was days during May that when we opened that we literally had 15 checks a whole day and I have a team of 20 people, you know, I am having trouble sleeping you just waking up at 4 in the morning, you know, sitting down a desk and running numbers just to try to see what I can make different who I have to let go or who can do the job at 2.

After some haggling Jamie's landlord agreed to temporarily cut the $8,000 a month rent in half, but that didn't solve their bigger problem. A lot of people in office people are now working from home and everybody talks about the light at the end of the tunnel and you know, I want we don't know when the light is going to click on or if it ever going to click on.

So they decided to shut it down after the break the door is closed and the messy cleanup begins.

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It was a few weeks before Christmas and the Kitchen Cafe. Look completely different. The space was filled with stacks of boxes and chairs and pots and pans and Panini presses. Every piece of furniture. Every piece of art on the wall. Every jumbo size can of beans had to be sold or stored or jumped a process that Jaime Valdez says sent him back at least five thousand bucks. The cafes least wasn't up until March but Jamie figured if they could get out fast the landlord might be able to find a replacement tenant. If not, Jamie, his wife would have to keep paying rent and insurance and utilities. Meaning they'd be out about 25 Grand today's Jamie and his staff worked all through the night.

Unless they did a playlist made by his wife floated through the cafe speakers.

Alright. Hey.

Not bad. How was your holiday after the New Year, Jamie and I met back at the cafe one last time. The place was empty not even a chair for us to sit in Jamie said that feels like a boring place, which is weird. I used to come to my store when I walk in every morning. I'll talk to my store every morning. Good morning. Good morning. Let's have fun. Let's have a good day. You know, you know, thank you, you know for for giving a lot to so many, you know, that's that's the biggest Pride I took

What's the hardest part about being the owner? I think the hardest part as an owner was take the decision to close eye.

I died I wouldn't I didn't know if I was doing the right thing. You know, I still don't know if we did the right thing.

But I just couldn't keep on you know, where we was just losing 10 $15,000 a month just to keep the Kitchen Cafe open waiting to see when it's going to bounce back rather than waiting on an uncertain rebound. Jamie decided to Simply cut the losses and yes shutting down cost 20 or $30,000. But at least the bleeding had stopped and now he and his wife can start over. That's right. I checked in with Jamie recently. He and his wife of move south of Boston to Cape Cod. He says they're trying to get a small business loan to buy a restaurant space down there. Cuz this time he says they want to be their own landlords.

Many friends of mine tell me why don't you do something different, you know mad in terms of business instead of restaurant. You really want to open a restaurant again. I said to them I really enjoy the rush of being busy.

You know my day goes so fast. It's my personal owner.

See you buddy.

This episode of the indicator was produced by Jamila Huxtable. In fact check by Sam side indicators edited by Patty Hearst and it is a production of NPR.

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