When the unthinkable happened, not only were tens of thousands of Philadelphia-area restaurant workers idled as their workplaces shut down or sharply curtailed operations, the coronavirus slapped the pause button on millions of dollars in restaurant projects big and small.
About $5 million alone has been invested by Stephen Starr and his partners on LMNO, a Mexican restaurant and nightlife venue that was due to open in April at Front and Palmer Streets in Fishtown, employing 150 people.
Asked what he expects to happen with it, he said this week: “My answer is: God knows.”
Before the shutdown, Philadelphia boasted a thriving restaurant scene, growing in national prominence. Just a month ago, you could count nearly three dozen restaurants that were scheduling spring openings.
Now, as restaurateurs assess the import of the shutdown, it has become unclear what the scene will be like when businesses are permitted to reopen. This return will not be like flipping a switch, instantly packing dining rooms, bars, and sidewalk cafes — rather, it will be a gradual warm-up.
Not everyone will return. Right now, restaurateurs are taking stock of their losses and determining if they can continue. Those that reopen will face competition from new restaurants because that is the nature of the business.