An Inspirational Restaurant in Queens Gives Back to Their Community Despite Pandemic Struggles

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Pandemic, Queens, NY, Restaurants

By Emily Drooby

Sangria Tapas Bar & Restaurant has been a staple of the Jamaica, Queens neighborhood for 17 years. They’re located near a courthouse and a major stop on the Long Island Railroad, so normally there would be a large lunch rush. But with the pandemic, that’s gone.

“It has been very tough, very, very tough,” said co-owner, Rita Coutinho.

Rita and her family are faithful Catholics and longtime parishioners of St. Pius X Church in Rosedale, Queens. When the city first shut down last year, they lost about 80 percent of their business.

Now with less restrictions and both New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing their intentions to fully open the city back up soon, they’re seeing an improvement.

“Thank God we are doing better, [but] it’s not the same thing like before COVID,” Rita said.

They’re now up to about 50 percent of their business. However, they did spend about $30,000 on COVID safety features. They had to dip into their own pockets to keep the place afloat. Like many restaurants, they’re calling on the government for financial help.

A new survey suggests that the pandemic has especially affected minority-owned small businesses. Ninety-percent of the survey’s respondents said they won’t last six months without financial relief. This is according to a survey done by nonprofit, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) New York City.

That makes what Rita and her co-owners did even more incredible. While it was a time of struggling, they still gave away $11,000 worth of meals to first responders and local churches who distributed them to parishioners. They have another large drop planned for next month.

“We know that God is going to help us because we are helping the community,” Rita said, “and the community comes to support us, so it’s like a beautiful circle.”

Now, it seems that God is helping them. If all goes well, Mayor de Blasio plans to fully reopen the city in just two months, on July 1.

It’s an announcement that inspires hope. Rita told Currents News that every morning she thanks God that she still has her health and her business.

“Gives you the hope that something better is coming for everybody,” Rita added.