Durham community rallies around restaurant amid coronavirus concern
Posted March 17, 2020 3:30 p.m. EDT
Updated March 17, 2020 5:58 p.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — With the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on the hospitality industry, the Durham community is rallying around a local restaurant.
"They could have just stood or sat by silently. They were really selfless in their efforts," said local attorney Nana Asante-Smith. Now the tables are turned, and Asante-Smith has started a GoFundMe to help Zweli's deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus.
Zweli's, which employs about 20 people, has seen about 50 catering orders canceled in the last week.
"It's extremely tough,"said Leonardo Williams, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife. "Now, we're in a situation where we have no idea what tomorrow looks like."
Williams said he is grateful for the GoFundMe campaign, which seeks to raise $25,000 to cover two months of rent and four payroll cycles for the staff.
"We never thought we would be in this position. We’re reaping what we sowed then. We didn’t do it for any reward, any recognition or anything," Williams said. "It really feels good to see that the community is like, 'Hey, we got you, too. You know we got your back like you have ours.' That feels … it’s invaluable."
Gov. Roy Cooper issued an order on Tuesday that requires all bars and restaurants to close dining rooms. Restaurants are still allowed to offer take-out, drive-thru and delivery service.
Zweli's currently offers take-out, curbside pick-up and delivery within a 25-mile radius. Orders can be called or even texted into the restaurant.
"Hopefully the delivery service and curbside and the fundraiser will allow us to have enough finances to employ everyone still and keep the doors open," Williams said.
Zweli's is located at 4600 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. in Durham. It is open seven days a week.