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D-FW restaurants already struggling before ban on dine-in services

Locally-owned restaurants and food service businesses implore customers to support them during the COVID-19 crisis as dine-in services are banned.

DALLAS — Just a few hours before Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson issued emergency regulations closing bars, lounges, night clubs and restaurants, with the exception of restaurant drive-thru, delivery, and take-out service, Abraham Salum was already dealing with a lunch-time problem. 

Every lunch reservation at Salum, his restaurant for 15 years at the corner of Fitzhugh and Cole in Dallas' Uptown neighborhood, had canceled.

"It's just bizarre," the Salum owner and executive chef told me. "We feel like we're in an episode of the Twilight Zone. It feels a little bit like 9/11. The thing is we don't know when it's going to be over." 

RELATED: Bars, gyms, theaters ordered to close in Dallas County

"I'd say we're down at least 25% overall," said Taylor Nicholson of Unrefined Bakery

The bakery is gluten free, soy free, non GMO and organic, with seven locations in D-FW including Uptown Plaza at Pearl and McKinney. Nicholson started the business a decade ago with her mom Anne Hoit.

Credit: WFAA

"Our customer counts have dramatically declined. Way fewer customers per day per store," Nicholson said.

In Seattle, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, some restaurants have already failed and gone out of business because of the COVID-19 threat. 

In Dallas, stores and restaurants like Unrefined Bakery and Salum, are now offering food for delivery, even food walked to your car if you drive up to their front door. Anything to help them survive.

"I feel that so many of us just assume that once this crisis passes, whether it's one week, two weeks, six weeks, eight weeks, lives will go back to normal," Nicholson said. "If we don't support our small businesses..."

"They'll be gone," Anne Hoit said. 

"Things will not go back to normal," Nicholson said.

"I hope people will continue to support small businesses during this crisis," Abraham Salum added. He says he has friends with restaurants in Europe that have already been closed for a full month.  

Credit: WFAA

"I'm just worried about my staff that they can be taken care of," he said.

The hourly staff at Salum, who Abraham Salum says he will help as much as he can financially, relies on tips for much of their income.  Weeks or months with no dine-in service will be difficult. 

But he, like Unrefined Bakery, is offering his fine-dining menu to go, either through standard delivery carriers or with members of his own trusted staff delivering it in person. He is also offering to-go orders to customers who come to his front door.

"But we understand. We're all in fear. We just need to figure out ways to help each other through this," he said.

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