Pandemic still hurting some small Richmond restaurants

Pandemic still hurting some small Richmond restaurants

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The pandemic continues to take a devastating toll on many small businesses. Another Richmond restaurant is closing its doors after several others have done the same over the last several months.

AJ Brewer, owner of Brewer’s Waffles, says it was one of the hardest decisions to make. He opened up shop, in part, to help breathe life into Manchester. But after trying to stay afloat in a pandemic, he would soon realize, it wasn’t making “cents.”

When you come to the 1300 block of Hull Street, you’ll no longer see a place that’s become part of the community.

“It created an environment of uncertainty,” AJ Brewer said. He tried to keep things going, but as months went on, everything seemed to change. Customers couldn’t keep up. “Were we open? Can I sit down? Do you have a shortened menu? Do you have shortened hours?”

The reduced foot traffic also became evident.

“We couldn’t really run the risk of staying open five to six hours with two people coming through the door,” he said.

Sunday was the restaurant’s final day in business.

This has happened several times over the last year. What used to be Brick & Mortar Coffee on Cary Street is no more. The company says it just couldn’t survive. The same for Dutch and Company restaurant on North 27th. In December, owners said on social media their vision ended before its time, yet they are thankful for the time they had. There’s also Nota Bene. Owners shared this message:

“Everyone should be able to attend their own funeral. Because let me tell you, it’s great” - referring to the support they received when the restaurant announced it too had to close.

“Yeah, you have delivery. Yeah, you have millennials doing online and the apps and all that stuff, but they’re really not the spenders. The spenders are people who are little older, have secure jobs and families and those individuals were not coming into the restaurant at a large enough clip to keep it sustainable,” Brewer added.

He also owns a Richmond coffee shop, Brewer’s Cafe. He does not plan on closing that business. In fact, it’s expanding to a new location. Just last week, First Lady Jill Biden made a pitstop to eat there. Brewer says since that time, he hasn’t been busier.

“I’m just really happy and thankful that she did that…She strategically told someone to come here…There needs to be a consistent level of support for small business owners, that’s from the bottom all the way to the top, from the consumer to the government. [Small business owners] are the people who run the country,” he said.

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