Trio of Bronx restaurants feed the front line during COVID-19

Retail jobs make up 19 percent of the workforce in the Bronx and many of those places are shuttered due to coronavirus.

But three restaurants owned by a group of Bronxites, including former NFL player Willie Colòn have stayed open during the COVID-19 crisis and have been feeding first responders. Along with Colon, Alfredo Angueria and Junior Martinez, operate Bricks and Hops at 65 Bruckner Blvd., south Bronx’s only beer garden, The Bronx Drafthouse next to Yankee Stadium and neighboring hip hop-themed restaurant, Beatstro on Alexander Avenue.

 

“I was born and raised in the Bronx,” Angueria said. “I remember my grandfather waiting online for government cheese and butter in the south Bronx. Knowing that we are able to give back is a blessing.”

Angueria, a former attorney, told the Bronx Times that while the three places are barely breaking even by doing takeout and delivery, he knew when the pandemic started they had to aid the front line.

He noted that his restaurants and others in the Bronx that are open are sacrificing their own health to feed the community and first responders.

“We didn’t know how long this was going to last,” Angueria said. “We wanted to help as much as we could.”

They started off providing food to emergency personnel and then expanded to Lincoln and Jacobi Hospitals.

“We would feed the entire Bronx if we could,” he stated.

But all of this was coming out of their pockets. They quickly partnered up with nonprofits World Central Kitchen and Here to Here who have been buying food from them.

The three restaurants have given away more than 12,000 meals a day and in total, more than 300,000 through World Central Kitchen.

“It’s really the assistance that we get for supplying first responders that has allowed us to stay afloat,” he explained.

While he has only had the restaurants for four years, he feels when the pandemic ends, many people will be left in debt, jobless and hurting. He expressed that the federal government really needs to help people.

According to Angueria, it will take months before people recover if they do at all.

“We understand that times are tough right now as a business, but times are tough for the average person in the street,” he said. “This is something no one has ever seen before. There’s going to be a lot of people struggling to make ends meet.”

Angueria said there’s a common misconception that restaurants make money hand over fist. With increased minimum wage, taxes, bills, vendors and now only takeout and delivery, vacancies will be all over, he stressed.

“This is going to be a very different landscape,” he remarked. “It’s going to be a very difficult picture for us as a business.”

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