As more than half the country is gearing up to reopen businesses amidst a global pandemic and restrictions are being lifted for restaurants in several states—the question has been asked, “When will Sandi’s reopen?”
The governor has given restaurants a “green light” to reopen with sidewalk seating on June 15th, while curbside, takeout and delivery still remain as available options.
When I decided to close our doors in March, there was not enough information regarding COVID-19 to guarantee the health and safety of myself, my family, employees or potential diners.
Fast forward two and a half months later, New Jersey’s confirmed coronavirus deaths has risen to 11,770 with 161,545 total cases and another 700 new positive tests confirmed as I sit and write this today.
I still do not have the level of comfort as a restaurant owner to throw the first pitch —not just yet.
I have been diligently working on a COVID-19 policy to amend our business plan and restructure the dining experience at Sandi’s in anticipation of a grand “reopening.”
This policy includes foundational direction based on CDC Guidelines, local and government officials and the National Restaurant Association along with ServSafe.
When it is completed, our staff will be retrained based on the new policy and I will begin to move toward taking the steps to reopen, using common sense and wisdom at the forefront of my decisions.
The logistics involved in owning a restaurant under normal circumstances is no easy task. Navigating through a pandemic without a clear road map is equally challenging.
As a female chef in a male dominated industry, I am humbly grateful to serve in this position. As a female business owner, I take pride in turning the key to a door that bears my name in a community that has been home to myself and my family since the early 90’s.
However, as an African American female and a Mother—I am hurting and I grieve.
I would be remiss if I didn’t share my feelings on the horrifying death of George Floyd....
While the COVID-19 crisis has given me time to reflect on why I fought so hard to have this opportunity, the underlying crisis of the fight for racial equality going on across our nation right now has solidified my core purpose in opening Sandi’s.
I knew somehow that I could change lives by creating a welcoming work environment and leave a bookmark in my legacy to inspire anyone who would dare to dream.
I am a firm believer that ANYTHING is possible.
I didn’t come into the restaurant industry with the assumption that everyone would love my food. I never joined the ranks of female chefs with the notion that I could be better or compete with anyone in my field. I strive daily only to be better than my “yesterday self.”
I just envisioned a place where people would come together, breaking bread, creating memories and telling stories around the tables. I strived to create a vibrant, lively dining experience, full of colorful chairs, fresh flowers and bright walls.
The handwoven baskets, silhouettes, little nicknacks, personal touches and attention to detail were added to give diners just a glimpse of who I am and what I had to offer the community. I wanted to create an ambiance of comfort for every diner.
Our staff was instructed to make everyone feel as though they were sitting down at my dining table with my family. My goal was to provide diners a reflection of who we are as a family. How we regard humanity and show kindness to others while serving good food with smiles, love and soul.
For the most part, I can honestly say we’ve done that—the overwhelming support and encouragement outweighs those who choose not to dine at Sandi’s or any negative feedback. Yet, there is a much greater work ahead.
I want to matter—in a country that was built on the backs of my ancestors.
I want to matter—as a collective part in society with the same provisions and opportunity afforded to others given to me and others who look like me.
I want my sons, daughters and grandchildren to have the privilege to live their lives out to the fullest of their potential without hindrance or untimely death.
I have faith in the resilience of humanity. I believe that healing and order will be restored, but for that to happen, honest, raw conversations have to take place.
We can start in our homes with our children and family members.
We can speak to our colleagues and stand strong in what we feel and think about racism, police brutality, and indifference towards any human being.
We can learn to embrace all people, but particularly those within our disadvantaged communities.
We can start to make changes by educating ourselves on what we see as our differences.
We can lead with love, light and respect and create a brighter path for future generations.
We can sit with lawmakers and implement polices and practices that benefit everyone.
We can show up for each other consistently and celebrate what we have in common.
We can put aside preferences that would further divide us and come together and heal.
We can foster mutual decency among each other and support each other in our gifts, talents and ideas.
There is a deafening cry and outrage for equality, understanding and acceptance from African Americans across the nation right now.
Sadly, for as long as I’ve been on this earth that cry has existed —it’s ringing louder and clearer as the days go on.
We can’t afford to ignore it—we just can’t.
I want to see change. I’m starting with ME.
I’ll meet you all at the tables of Sandi’s again real soon—
on the other side of all of this, ready to laugh with you and share stories, only this time of healing, triumph and unity.
With love and soul,