Philadelphia restaurant owner reflects on COVID-19 closure 2 years later

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The small businesses that weathered the storm of closures imposed by Philadelphia when COVID-19 first gripped the city two years ago are still in recovery mode despite things being close to the pre-pandemic normal.

Exactly two years ago on Wednesday, Philadelphia officials ordered non-essential businesses to close at 5 p.m. The edict closed most small businesses and reduced restaurants to delivery and takeout.

“It’s been a real nightmare, rollercoaster ride for the past two years,” recalls Flannel restaurant owner Marc Grika. “All we got was luck, well done, and we knew it was a problem from then on.”

From March 2020, the coronavirus has spread across the world, as has its influence on daily life. In the months that followed, Americans plodded through COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, universal mask mandates and capacity requirements.

Three vaccines were quickly developed to slow the virus as it manifested in different variants that forced authorities to reimpose eased restrictions. Along the way, around 80 million people have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 960,000 have died.

Small businesses have fallen by the wayside, but those that have survived are still feeling the jolt of life suddenly slapping on the breaks. Grika said he had to take out loans to keep Flannel afloat.

“People think we’re reopened, so we’re making money again,” Grika said. “Well, we’ve all taken out loans during the pandemic to keep going, so we may look busy, but we’ve got all these loans to pay off where nobody’s testing positive right now.”

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