EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The East Brunswick Human Relations Council concluded their Unity in the Community series, a part of their regular Coffee and Conversations program, Tuesday night with a focus on local restaurants helping the township to reopen.
The three featured businesses, EB Chinese, Playa Bowls, and Colonial Diner, have remained open throughout the pandemic to give back to the community members and essential workers in need.
Among the three restaurants, EB Chinese reached out to donate to local hospitals and local police, offering hundreds of free meals to Robert Wood Johnson and St. Peter's University Hospital in addition to offering heavily discounted meals and lunch specials to seniors, kids, and anyone struggling to get by. Despite a lull in business prior to the lockdown, the restaurant didn't hesitate to provide donations and assist residents in any way possible.
"It was a no-brainer for us to donate," Chelsea Dyer, manager of EB Chinese, said. "My boss has always very much been a person who's said, ‘whatever you need, whoever needs it.'"
Gary Moss, vice president of Playa Bowls, has tried to teach his young employees the same sentiment throughout the COVID-19 lockdown.
"We made every commitment that we possibly could to the staff to take care of them as best we could to help us take care of our community," Moss said.
Despite struggling to stay open in the beginning weeks of quarantine, Playa Bowls had a van going to all of their restaurants on a regular basis to take donations to hospitals throughout the State of New Jersey and to police stations, doctors’ offices, and EMTs throughout the township.
"We wanted to give to all the local heroes," Moss said. "The answer was always yes, what can we do to help…it's not always about writing out a check. You forget the value of a meal sometimes."
In addition to donations, when Spiro Hadjiyerou, owner of Colonial Diner, realized what was initially a two-week closing would turn into something far more serious, he invited his staff of 50 to take as much extra food as they could. Hadjiyerou also reached out to South River and East Brunswick Oxford houses, New Jersey Rise, Catholic Charities, and Middlesex County Youth Services to take vans full of refrigerated foods from the restaurant.
"Be safe, be considerate, be patient…we're all in this together," Hadjiyerou said. "We need to be listening to what people tell us. Our East Brunswick alliance is unbelievable, but this is real."
EB Chinese, Playa Bowls, and Colonial Diner are all on the road to reopening and putting safety measures in place, among them switching to touchless in-store ordering, sanitization and safety protocols, and plexiglass dividers. Colonial Diner and Playa Bowls are both now offering outdoor seating with tables six feet apart, though wearing a mask is required. While EB Chinese does not currently have outdoor seating, curbside pickup is available.
"I think we'll all come out of this on the other side," Moss concluded. "Giving gives back."
For a complete list of local restaurants offering outdoor dining visit https://www.eastbrunswick.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=104
The East Brunswick Human Relations Council is inviting all local artists to create a piece of any medium to anyone who has touched their lives during the pandemic. For more information on requirements and prizes, visit https://www.facebook.com/174818639239530/photos/a.197103453677715/3062898093764889/