Photo by Jessica Keller: Corino Bonjrada makes a crepe for Niyar Mammadova, an employee at Key Bank, at Caravan Crepes Food Truck, which is parked at the corner of 34th and West McGraw Street in Magnolia. While usually used at the farmers market, Bonjrada and his wife have opened the food truck early to help offset revenue losses from Gov. Jay Inslee's order to close restaurants except for takeout and delivery services due to the rapid spread of COVID-19.
Photo by Jessica Keller: Corino Bonjrada makes a crepe for Niyar Mammadova, an employee at Key Bank, at Caravan Crepes Food Truck, which is parked at the corner of 34th and West McGraw Street in Magnolia. While usually used at the farmers market, Bonjrada and his wife have opened the food truck early to help offset revenue losses from Gov. Jay Inslee's order to close restaurants except for takeout and delivery services due to the rapid spread of COVID-19.

Caravan Crepes Food Truck was running a small but steady business around noon Friday at the corner of 34th and West McGraw Street in Magnolia with Corino Bonjrada busy turning out crepes for the people stopping by.

Bonjrada and his wife, Ana Sofia Ponce de Leon de Bonjrada, who also own Pink Salt and Mondello in Magnolia, have turned to their food truck to help offset any business lost by Gov. Jay Inslee's emergency proclamation ordering the closure of indoor dining at restaurants and bars and restricting them to takeout and delivery.

“I like making crepes,” Bonjrada said, adding he and his wife originally purchased the truck two years ago to be used during the farmers market.

Now it is helping them stay afloat. While Pink Salt, Ana Sofia's Peruvian restaurant, and Mondello, which is run by Corino's sister, are serving meals for delivery and takeout, Caravan Crepes is picking up daytime business from pedestrians.

So far, business has been steady and the community supportive.

“This is where the community is strong together,” Corino Bonjrada said. “Everybody wants to help and help us stay alive.”

Ana Sofia said, like every other restaurant and small business included in the governor's emergency proclamation, they have been trying to make do. Their family has been trying to run all three restaurants with very limited staff, she said, and only started the food truck March 18 to try and boost revenue.

“It's been really, really tough,” Ana Sofia said. “But, you know, we've been keeping the faith, hoping it's over sooner rather than later.”

She said the community has been supportive, which is heartwarming. While Ana Sofia personally delivers to people's homes in Magnolia, “most people insist on coming for pickup,” she said.

“I think they're just excited to get out of the house,” she said.

Ana Sofia said she and her husband have no expectations about when they will be able to return to normal business operations and just hope to make it out of the pandemic unscathed.

“So, we're going to keep this up as long as we can until the state says we can't anymore,” she said.

In Queen Anne, Peter Levy, who owns 5 Spot on Queen Anne Avenue and four other restaurants in Seattle and Tacoma, is unsure of what the future holds.

He is also skeptical about the measures being taken to help small businesses and restaurants during this time.

“I'm hoping to get out of this without taking out any loans,” he said. “I don't know if we'll make it, but I wouldn't deal with the federal government on this.”

Like many restaurants in Queen Anne and the rest of Seattle, 5 Spot is taking advantage of this period of time when restaurants are allowed to offer curbside delivery or take out.

The restaurant is offering curbside delivery of comfort foods, with pickup from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Levy is also thinking about offering delivery, but he's not certain if that is feasible.

“We don’t know anything about delivery,” he said. “I know we’re going to screw it up. It’s a different kind of business.”

Levy expects the closures to impact his bottom line a lot. While he can cut back labor, other expenses are not going away, he said. Plus, he doubts very much elderly people will want to leave their homes during this time, which he said is understandable, but that still removes a chunk of his clientele.

Like many other restaurants, Levy has had to layoff most of his employees.

Of his five restaurants, Levy said he had about 285 employees, and he laid off about 250 of them. At 5 Spot, Levy laid off a little over 20 employees. He retained his managers and supervisors because he wanted to have his key people in place, he said.

When he had his employees meeting, he gave his staff all unemployment insurance and other information and guaranteed them their jobs back when business reopens.

“I said, 'When we reopen, I want every single one of you back,' but I don’t know what to expect,” Levy said.

Despite the challenges this places upon his businesses, Levy said he thinks ordering the shutdowns were the right thing to do.

“I am fully in agreement with Gov. Inslee's decision to close all the restaurants,” Levy said. “I think it was a necessary and absolutely correct decision to make.”

He thinks the ramifications will be great, however. Levy said, once this ends, he expects the total number of restaurants to be down 35 percent in Seattle, adding that the city had been “lethally overbuilding restaurants” in the last four to five years, and it is unsustainable.

Landlords, he said, who have been raising rents by 8 to 10 percent yearly, will see vacancies in their buildings because they “absolutely are not going to get their $45 per square foot.”

Levy expects the fallout for restaurants will last beyond their closures, and he said restaurants like his will need the support of the locals to help carry them through if they are to survive.

“All small business owners are hoping that the community will support them as much as they are able,” he said, adding, while people should definitely focus on taking care of themselves, they should remember to take care of their brick and mortar retailers and restaurants.