ROXBURY, NJ – By order of the government, the booths at Roxbury Diner in Succasunna were empty last week at a time of day when they're normally be packed with a lunch crowd.
But by order of owners Jimmy and George Dontas, the kitchen was still buzzing.
Determined to keep going, despite the new anti-coronavirus rules that ban restaurants from allowing eat-in customers, the Dontas brothers were responding to calls for take-out and delivery. And they were doing it with a skeleton crew made of family members.
Jimmy Dontas said he initally attempted to keep his full staff of about 50 working. “We tried takeout and delivery the first day, and at the end of the day, when I saw the sales, I realized it’s not going to cut it,” he said. “So, we went down to just family. I told everybody on the staff to go down to unemployment.”
Eggs, Milk and ... Toilet Paper
But he also asked his workers to not be strangers as the virus battle plays out. “I told them, ‘If you’re in the area and we’re open, stop in and eat on us. It’s the least I can do for you guys,’” he said.
Last week, the diner set up a section where it is selling some staples. It was one of the few places in Roxbury where toilet paper was available, as was milk, eggs, pasta and other items.
Dontas said he allowed his furloughed employees to take items from the micro-mini mart if they desired. “Any one of our workers who comes in, we give them something to eat and, if they want to, they can take home eggs, milk or whatever.”
Dontas said his revenue dropped by as much as 95 percent during the first week of the COVID-19 business restrictions. Now, entering the second week, the diner – a TAPinto Roxbury and TAPinto Randolph sponsor - remains open, with limited hours of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., for takeout and delivery.
In This Together
In a Facebook post, the diner asked its customers to take time to consider others who might need assistance. Despite its catastrophic loss of business, the diner said it would try to help.
“Please check on elderly neighbors and anyone in need, and please let us know if someone is experiencing financial difficulties or hardships, and we will be happy to provide a free or reduced price meal to help out our friends and neighbors,” it offered.
On the other hand, the diner reminded its regulars that “these are not normal times” and said they should “not expect or ask for the ‘business as usual discounts’” the diner normally offers.
“We are struggling as well, and we are all doing our best to survive and get through this,” said the post.
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