Restaurant owner: “This is all I’ve ever done”

Published: Mar. 22, 2020 at 11:11 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A local restaurant owner has closed both of his restaurants, one of which just opened three weeks ago.

Tom Saab owns Bistro Two Eighteen on 20th St and the newly opened Bocca on 2nd Avenue North. He says it’s painful now to look at his empty kitchens.

“This building was built by Elyton who laid out the plat plan for the city," says Saab.

Tom Saab opened Bistro 218 seven years ago, and loves the history that comes with it.

“Stained glass panels from the 1880’s, and we saved three of them. One of them was in such bad repair it couldn’t be saved.”

Saab started washing dishes early on, working his way up to becoming a chef. Running a restaurant is all he wants to do.

“It’s all I know how to do, it’s all I’ve ever done. You know, two really good teams of people. Great staff.”

48 people on staff in total, between Bistro 218 and Bocca, which opened February 24th.

“You know, we decided we wanted more work. Good maître d’s and sommeliers.”

A treasured staff he hopes to keep paying for as long as he can.

“Trying to keep them together, communicate with them regularly, keep them updated on events that are happening inside and outside the restaurant. Mostly our concern is for their health.”

That’s why he’s decided against offering curbside takeout orders, feeling that restaurant workers are highly exposed to illness.

“We’re working on options to keep them getting paid. A couple of my regulars, two of them have generously stepped up and offered to help. So, we’re really touched by that.”

Staying optimistic, and believing in the best possible outcome.

“We love what we do and we’re doing everything we can to mitigate our losses and try to get ready to come back hopefully sooner than later.”

Saab says he wouldn’t be surprised if it were 90 days before they opened again. He hopes the community will come out and support them when they do.

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