For the time being, Getting Salty won’t focus on restaurateurs’ most memorable meals or servers’ favorite books. It will spotlight how food industry professionals are getting through the COVID-19 pandemic. Dimitra Tsourianis, 40, owns Daddy Jones, a popular bar and restaurant in Somerville.
Are you scared?
I am not, yet, simply because when I bought the restaurant, I bought the real estate. For now, it gives me comfort. I don’t know if it will give me comfort forever.
How are you emotionally?
I have lost so much weight. I’m not doing anything that would make me active other than thinking. I know it’s stress-related. I feel calm, but I can’t sleep at night.
My husband and I are trying to tag team each other; he’s a wine and liquor salesman. He can’t sell anything right now. What’s interesting is the trickle-down effect — even the guy who cleans the beer lines. There are so many other people affected in the industry. I think of the vendors who are sitting on produce going bad. I have seen some amazing generosity. One company arranged to have 100 care packages go to a local food bank. The effect of all of this is far-reaching and just beginning.
I’m trying to fill out a disaster loan with the Small Business Administration, but the website is crashing. GoFundMe requires all of this information that needs to be updated. And I’m trying to have my daughter not come in and hack the computer. I go into the bedroom to use my laptop.
When did you close and why?
We closed on Friday [March 13] before service. I live in Somerville. We’re in the school system. I heard two parents connected to Biogen had been exposed. OK, if we’re not supposed to be exposing each other, it’s wrong to have a restaurant open. I knew that going into St. Patrick’s Day weekend, it would be busier than ever, and the opposite of what we want. I told my staff: ‘I don’t think we can do this.’ If I can’t comfortably come in, and I have two young children — they say kids are OK, but are they? And I live next-door to my parents, who are in their 70s and, knock on wood, they’re pretty healthy, but still — What am I doing? If I can’t feel comfortable opening, I can’t ask any of you to be here. So we immediately set up a GoFundMe and closed and had an influx of gift card sales. People kept asking: ‘How can we send you money?’ I don’t want them to send me money, that seems inappropriate, but maybe we can do something to connect others and people in need. [Daddy Jones is soliciting donations to help support area businesses, families in need, and schools.]
Who is working for you now?
Eleven people work at Daddy Jones total. Everyone was paid through the weekend, and when we got the official notice about closing [on Sunday], we did the math. We could keep two people on to handle takeout. They requested to come in, thinking it would keep them sane and active. They’d handle takeout and donation requests. … We did takeout Tuesday through Wednesday, we didn’t open yesterday, and this morning I’m battling with what we should do because I feel everyone should just get home. My mom asked me to grab bread. I said, ‘Do you need bread, or do you want bread?’ So my mom baked bread.
To whom are you donating?
I used to run cross-country at Somerville High School. I connected with the athletic department, reached out to some people to put together food packages for local families. We have food we can’t use. I have dry goods and stuff. We’ve been putting together care packages for Somerville families, and I got requests in Cambridge and Hyde Park after I shared on social media. People say, ‘I’m scared. I just got laid off.’ I’ve been getting e-mails from people at Somerville High School about families in need. Today I’m donating pasta, rice, asparagus, baby carrots, peanut butter. We did hot food over the weekend, but I think it makes more sense to give them things they can take with them for longer.
Here’s a crystal ball! What happens next?
I think this will take longer than we think. And I do think that our industry has changed forever. I think we’re going to lose the gems that make our restaurant scene so wonderful. I also think that, you know, down the road in the long run, there’s going to be people thinking about a safety net and not running their restaurant week to week, and more safety measures for our staff so that people can feel protected in our industry.