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South End Restaurant Temporarily Closes Due to Owner’s COVID-19 Diagnosis

Plus, restaurants are raising funds to provide no-cost grocery boxes to those in need, and more news

Brick exterior of a casual restaurant with white, black, and red signage reading Mike’s City Diner
Mike’s City Diner owner Jay Hajj has announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19 (with “very mild” symptoms) and is temporarily closing the restaurant so he and the staff can self-quarantine.
Mike’s City Diner/Facebook

Welcome back to AM Intel, a round-up of mini news bites to kick off the week.

Temporary Closures Due to COVID-19 Diagnoses

South End institution Mike’s City Diner is temporarily closed. Owner Jay Hajj announced on the diner’s Facebook page on May 23 that he tested positive for COVID-19, noting that his symptoms are “very mild.”

“While I have not been in the kitchen or serving at Mike’s, out of an abundance of caution, we are closing the restaurant so the staff and I can self quarantine,” he wrote. “Thank you for your understanding and support — we’ll let you know when we are back.”

A&B Burgers is closing both of its locations (Boston and Beverly) until June 1, according to a Facebook post from owner Thomas Holland, because an employee has tested positive. The employee last worked on May 19. (The employee is asymptomatic and “feeling fine.”) Holland is requiring all employees to get tested before returning (and reimbursing those who don’t have insurance coverage) and hired an outside company to deep-clean and sanitize both locations. Employees will continue to wear masks, wear gloves and change them regularly, and take other cleaning and safety measures.

“Understanding that this closure will be a severe hardship for our employees we will be paying them while they’re required to stay home so that no one rushes back to work and possibly endangering others,” wrote Holland.

The Danvers, Massachusetts, location of McKinnon’s Supermarket — a small local chain that is not connected to the McKinnon’s butcher shop in Somerville — is also closed temporarily due to positive COVID-19 tests of “some” employees, but the closure may only last one day (today, May 26).

“The closure will allow us to have all employees tested and cleared to work, and allow us to have the store professionally sanitized, and then deep cleaned,” the company posted on Facebook on May 25. “These proactive measures, being taken in cooperation with the Danvers Board of Health, [are] in the best interest of all employees and the public that shops [at] our store. We hope to open on Wednesday, May 27th. Once back open, all employees who arrive to work will have their temperature checked, and will be monitoring for any symptoms each day. We are making sure all employees are informed and understand the steps to take to best safeguard their own health and the health of our community.”

Groceries and Charity

Many local restaurants have begun offering takeout and delivery grocery options alongside prepared food in an effort to make groceries more accessible at a time when going to a major grocery store can feel daunting. Some are using the opportunity to help communities in need, too.

The Dark Horse Public House in Somerville, for example, which has been selling grocery boxes since early in the pandemic, also collects donations for its Help a Neighbor Fund, using the money to put together packages of fresh foods for local families. Those who would like to donate can message their phone number to the restaurant on Instagram or Facebook and wait for a call back.

Mei Mei’s Irene Li is partnering with La Comunidad, an Everett-based organization that supports the local Latino-American community, to raise money for, put together, and deliver grocery boxes to 300 families, with each box containing about 35 pounds of staples and produce meant to cover a large portion of a family’s weekly food needs. An initial goal of $10,500, enough to cover the first delivery for each family, has already been surpassed; the fundraiser is ongoing. Pagu’s Tracy Chang is also joining the effort, using the same model to help support 160 local United Food and Commercial Workers workers and their families.

And in Sharon, Avi Shemtov (Simcha, Chubby Chickpea), who has been selling grocery boxes to local families throughout the pandemic, is now working with a non-profit organization and raising funds to provide modified grocery boxes to people in the Greater Boston area who cannot afford the boxes on their own. The modified boxes contain a mix of fresh produce, cleaning supplies, microwaveable single-serve meals, and more. The program also provides some revenue to struggling local food truck companies (which, like everyone, have taken quite a hit due to the pandemic) and out-of-work restaurant employees, who are packing and delivering the boxes.

In Other News...

  • Demolition looms for the building housing South Boston mainstay Mul’s Diner.
  • Boston-based food photographer Brian Samuels is working on a COVID-19 portrait project meant to highlight the “resilience, determination, and creativity of individuals working in the hospitality industry,” showcasing a variety of local chefs and restaurant owners.
  • Worcester is getting a brand new arcade bar, Pixels & Pints, once COVID-19 dine-in restrictions are lifted (although the bar may open for takeout before then). The venue features arcade games from the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Kitschy Saugus icon Kowloon, celebrating its 70th birthday this year, is hoping to add a drive-in movie theater — complete with carhop service — this summer.

Got a news tip for the Eater Boston team? Email boston@eater.com.

Mei Mei

Unit 52 Rochester Walk, , England SE1 9AF Visit Website

A&B Burgers (Boston)

101 Beverly St., Boston, MA 02114 Visit Website

Mul's Diner

75 West Broadway, , MA 02127 (617) 268-5748

Mike's City Diner

1714 Washington Street, , MA 02118 (617) 267-9393 Visit Website

Kowloon

948 Broadway, Saugus, MA 01906 (781) 233-0077 Visit Website

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