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  • Que Jackson

These Black-Owned Restaurants Opened for Business in the Midst of the Pandemic

When we prepared to usher in the new year, most of us had plans beyond our wildest dreams. We were determined to take our visions, goals, and destiny into our hands and do everything in life that we have ever planned on doing.....but then coronavirus came. To some of us, it seemed like the end of the world but to others, it was an occurrence that would not stop us from walking into the greatness that we promised ourselves. One thing that we all had to do, no matter what was going on in the world, was eat. We have compiled a list of restauranteurs around the country that would not let COVID-19 keep them from opening their doors and serving their community.



UJerk - Cleveland, Ohio



What was the driving force behind opening UJerk during a global pandemic?


The goal was actually to open up the restaurant in March, unfortunately, because of the pandemic, we had to postpone it until July.  At the beginning of the year, my business partners and I set out to open up this restaurant, and pandemic or not, we're getting it done. That was the driving force. Not only stating what I was going to do but more importantly accomplishing what I set out.



What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in Cleveland?


The vision is to create something unique and different. We are not your typical Jamaican restaurant. If you are looking for rice and peas, plantains, or oxtail you will be disappointed. We are American dining with a Caribbean twist. We intend on bringing a UJerk to every major city nationally and internationally. For Cleveland, we wanted to bring excellent jerk chicken to downtown. There are no real Caribbean restaurants in the area so we wanted to give everyone that option for dining.

What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits?


When people visit downtown Cleveland and walk into Ujerk we want them to feel like for a small moment they are able to "get away" without being away. Sometimes you can't go to the island so we want to bring the island to you. There's always Caribbean music playing, aromas of the best jerk chicken in America in the air, and always a warm welcome from our staff. We want people to leave with a fun experience as well as a full stomach.  


Jeremiah Perkins, Partner


Levi's Grill LLC - Warner Robins, Georgia



What was the driving force behind opening Levi's Grill during a global pandemic?


The driving force behind opening a physical location during this pandemic is mainly my love for organized chaos. I perform at my highest level when times get rough or seem like there's no positive outcome in sight. Right now is the best time to invest in what people love which is eating out. 


What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in Warner Robins?


Opening Levi's Grill LLC in Warner Robin, Ga I will be the only black privately owned smoked eats establishment in the city. My vision is too continuously grow my customer base by providing fresh flavorful food with great customer service. 


What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits?


The Levi's Grill Brand wants to resurface each customer's taste buds, with flavorful food to keep them wanting more. At Levi's even kids finish their veggies, so there's no question about the flavor just know its the best. Also showing young black people that being consistent and humble are some stepping stones of becoming successful. 



Baron Sibley, Owner


Grub Fresh Bowls & Wraps - Hapeville, Georgia



What was the driving force behind opening a physical location during a global pandemic?


The driving force started once I purchased the commercial property in late 2018 and began construction on my relocation of Smoothie King. Soon after completing the relocation, I started developing Grub in the summer of 2019 with the primary focus to bring another healthy food option to the residents and employees of Hapeville and the surrounding Tri-Cities Airport area. I’m extremely goal-oriented and once I was able to access the trends on my existing businesses during COVID-19 I felt confident in moving forward since I was already 75% complete with construction. Please note that I initially started my first Smoothie King store in Hapeville during the Great Recession in 2008 and I’m still around! 


What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in Hapeville?


The vision is to become a staple in the community. Chick-fil-A originally started in Hapeville as well and I’d like to create a solid foundation in the area just like they did and eventually open up additional locations on the south side and franchise the concept. 

What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits?


My desire is that everyone has a feeling of satisfaction without having the feeling of guilt. I want Grub to be a place where you come to refuel while still being able to meet your goals of eating cleaner, lighter, and healthier options.  I created Grub because I would spend hours looking for something quick and healthy to eat.  The lack of options made it challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle while working such a busy schedule. After years of frustration, I decided to recruit a classically-trained chef to help me take my passionate idea and create a solution that left me feeling satisfied and recharged.



Philip Jones, Founder



CZEN - Brooklyn New York



What was the driving force behind opening a physical location during a global pandemic?


We opened Czen in February 2020 right before the COVID Pandemic halted our thriving business. The joy in physically manifesting a lifelong dream of opening a restaurant or any new establishment is indescribable. To add to that feeling, our patrons not only supported our concept they also enjoy our cuisine. So you could imagine our disappointment when six weeks later, the world shut down.  At first, we were frustrated to have spent so much time and money into the creation of Czen, and then almost overnight, it seemed as if it was over. The idea of re-opening the restaurant was bittersweet. We had to weigh the health risks and new safety guidelines against the level against the standard of service that our customers were used to. One of the things that we were confident about was the relationships that we were able to cultivate with our customers, prior to the shutdown. Our patrons were the driving force to going back to the drawing board to re-envision our presentation with the new governmental-issued requirements surrounding the food industry. 


What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in your city?


My business partners and I are successful Event Planners and we felt that it was a natural progression to the experiences in which we have provided throughout the years. In NYC, people love the nightlife experience so in addition to the A- list events that we created, we brought a trendy yet affordable environment to East Flatbush Brooklyn. 


We took our time and put a lot of thought and love into our restaurant, with the full understanding that we were achieving another goal of creating jobs and employing people from our community.

What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits?


The Czen brand is an experience. A Modern, Caribbean-Asian Fusion that is Trendy, chic, and wholesome all at the same time. We are bringing the City vibes right into our local neighborhood. We want all who visit with us to leave with a smile on their face, satisfaction in their belly, and joy in their hearts with excitement to return. We have noticed the increase in the support of black businesses and the community has truly exhibited their support for this group of Young Black Men who are Changing the Food Industry Narrative, one table at a time.


Prince Forde, Managing Partner


Go Vegan - Philadelphia, Pennslyvania



What was the driving force behind opening a physical location during a global pandemic?


Go vegan was started on February 16th, 2018, at my home. By 2019 our following was huge and we started selling grab and go items in 4 different markets. By September of 2019, we moved into a restaurant space in Conshohocken, PA, and won best vegan restaurant in PA that year. We now have a restaurant space in Wilmington, Delaware. The pandemic really didn’t hurt business for us, thank God. So we decided to continue business as usual.


What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in Wilmington?


The goal is to create some jobs in Wilmington, Delaware, and the vision remains the same to bring healthier options to the community. 



What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits?


We aim to make transitioning to a vegan lifestyle much easier for people. 


Shaun Thomas, Chef, and Founder

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