CAMDEN, NJ — Sung Choi, who owns Friends Café — a stones throw from Rutgers University-Camden — says he’s anxious about the hit he’s taking with the school announcing campus closures until at least April 1.
Rutgers students were sent scrambling earlier this week when Rutgers announced that due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic — which stands at 50 reported cases in the state as of Friday afternoon — students would be taking classes online.
“I have six months of solid business between the three months in spring and the three months in the fall when students are here," he told TAPinto Camden. "I don’t think they’ll reopen in April to be honest. That’s one third of my business right there.”
In a post on the restaurant's Instagram Thursday, Choi reassured customers that it would remain open — citing that students make up 90 percent of the business' sales.
Friends Café specializes in Asian-fusion dishes.
At lunchtime today — when the café and campus are usually bustling with foot traffic — Choi was grateful to have a couple of police officers grabbing food, along with three other customers.
“My landlord, Kelly, said he’s going to work with me for the time being but I don’t know what’s going to happen… this has never happened before,” Choi said. “I plan to make a video to address the situation soon. But I’m worried.”
Camden County has two presumed positive cases as of Friday afternoon.
A few services at the campus, what felt like a ghost town at midday, remained open — like the Student Welcome Center.
However, the center’s store, which sells basic essentials and snacks, and the Starbucks, where lines usually extend to over a dozen people, were both shuttered.
A custodian, who did not want to be identified by name or disclose the building she worked in, said she’s been fervently cleaning as part of the school’s instructions to maintain sanitized public facilities.
“I hear we may be getting full suits to clean in, and more chemicals soon. They want to be extra safe,” the custodian said, as she wiped down windows. “Right now, kids would be coming in and out of here but there’s not much happening on campus. I agree with the extra safe measures, though.”
Abid Hussain, who runs a food truck, adjacent to the campus said spring break would typically begin after this weekend, and so he expected to lose some business.
“I wouldn’t have a lot of customers anyway. Yesterday was okay but today it’s been very slow,” said Hussain. “People are worried, I understand.”
Online instruction will be taught in conjunction with regularly scheduled classes, one student told TAPinto.
A chemistry professor passing by Friends Café for his lunch said that teaching online has come with its own hurdles.
“I can’t see their faces, and especially with something like chemistry you have to go back sometimes if they don't understand something,” the professor said. “Today was my first time taking attendance, so I won’t know until later how we did. I hope we resolve this soon and get back to normal.”