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Monroe restaurant owner: ‘Crushing’ to see employees ‘so worried’ during shutdown

Takeout food orders wait for pickup on the closed counter seating area at the Penrose Diner, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, in south Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The shutdown announced by the governor on Sunday is having a major impact on business and restaurant owners across Washington state. Since restaurants are not allowed to serve customers inside for the next month, many risk losing their business entirely, or having to layoff employees.

Scott Perry runs Toscano’s Italian Kitchen in Monroe, Wash., and told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show that this shutdown is “crushing.”

“My wife and I, we’re 63 and 62, we will survive this, but we have 40 some employees that count on our leadership every day to run a successful business so they can generate revenue to pay for their cell phone, and their food, and their day care,” he said. “And I think the most crushing part for us is to see these wonderful people have been with us 5, 10, 15, 20-year employees, struggling and crying, and so worried and so stressed about what the go forward looks like.”

“That’s, I think, the hardest part for my wife and I, is to watch our employees, similar to watching our friend, Mauro, your friend who owns Assaggio, listening him in tears. The other day my wife and I welled up knowing how hard he has worked too for 28 years, and to think he may lose everything. It just breaks our heart,” Perry added.

Seattle restaurant owner says shutdown is ‘a very, very scary moment’

Perry says he’s seen no data to indicate that restaurants are a place where COVID-19 spreads in Washington state, which has been a message shared in recent days by the president of the Washington Hospitality Association and other restaurant owners.

[Anthony] Anton, the head of our restaurant association, … documents there’s less than 1% of COVID cases that can be directly traced back to a restaurant or bar operation — 1%,” Perry said.

Last time businesses were closed due to COVID, Perry says he and his wife gave thousands of dollars away from their personal savings to support their employees.

“We paid people’s rents. We helped pay for people’s food. We fed people that came in the restaurant. We bought thousands of dollars of gift cards at Fred Meyer and gave them out. My son, the general manager, went to his own savings account and went through a couple $1,000 and handed out $100 bills to these people. He’s 25 years old. This is what we do,” Perry said.

“And this is what business owners do,” he added. “… We as business owners support the people that have worked so hard for us to make our brand vibrant and successful.”

Now, during the holiday season, Perry says is the worst time for another shutdown. Plus, the plug was pulled, he said, in a matter of 48 hours from the announcement to when restaurants had to shift.

Perry added that what frustrates him the most is the hypocrisy.

“It’s even like watching the governor in California, … out at a restaurant with 12 people,” he said. “It’s watching our government people … asking us to get in line and shut up and doing something different on their own. It’s looking at the people allowing protests in Seattle. … What’s good for you is not good for me, and you get in line and shut up. That’s all I want you to do, like sheep.”

Luckily, Perry says he and his wife have worked hard for 35 years to pay off any debt and are fortunate to own their own building, the fixtures, and the furnishings.

“But we’re very unusual in this business, because most people are paying a very big risk factor,” he said. “And of course, as you know, all the other operating cost to run a business. That’s what’s taking people out is having to continually pay. They had the big rent factor to pay. We don’t. We’ve got to manage our property taxes and overhead expenses and labor, so we will survive this.”

“But it brings me to tears to think of so many of my friends, and so many people who have given up everything in their life to run a business and live the American dream, which, by God, I’m so thankful we’ve been able to do, we will make this,” he added. “But … I bet you 50-60% of the restaurants will vaporize, Dori.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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