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North End Businesses Brace For Financial Burdens From Coronavirus Shutdown Extension

BOSTON (CBS) – As Arya Trattoria owner Massimo Tiberi describes it, "There are 80 restaurants on two blocks, and at eight o'clock you can park a truck [on the street.] It's crazy."

Boston's North End, known for its bustling nightlife and dining scene, is as close to a ghost town as one can imagine. Several restaurants have closed completely during the state's stay at home advisory, and others are trying to turn a fine dining experience into a takeout menu.

News of the state's partial shutdown being extended to May 18 was not a surprise for Tiberi. "I just hope it's the last time they do it," he told WBZ. "They said later and later…I just hope everybody stays in and listens and gets it over with."

North End
Hanover Street in Boston's North End during coronavirus shutdown (WBZ-TV)

His waitstaff is laid off and collecting unemployment. He said he can't wait to have customers bustling in his restaurant again.

"It's not just a financial burden, it's a mental thing," Tiberi said. "Restaurant people are like night owls. They like to be busy at night; they like a full house. This just mentally does a wear and tear on your body."

Tiberi said his customers have been generous – buying family style meals and gift cards to help him stay afloat.

Other businesses on the same street aren't as lucky. LIT Boutique, a small clothing store directly across the street, has been closed for six weeks. Its owners are trying to sell clothing to a small clientele group on its website at discounted rates in the hope the clothes will sell.

The foot traffic at its two Boston and one Portsmouth, NH store is gone. "We rely on our foot traffic for our business, and our community, neighbors, special events, weddings, graduations, which have all disappeared," owner Nehal Shah told WBZ.

The Shahs, who co-own the businesses, had to lay off 41 of their 42 employees after March. "I'm probably a day away from taking out a second mortgage to try and keep this business running," Shah said. Clothing racks of brand new spring line items line the store, idle, without customers to buy them.

Shah and his wife Lisa have built LIT Boutique over 15 years, and say this is the hardest thing they've endured financially. "My staff is my family," Shah explained. "The LIT staff is great. It hurts. It just hurts to be in a position where you've worked so hard and you're at a grinding stop and the future – it's just – uncertain."

Shah says he knew the May 18 extension was coming, and he's hopeful his stores can open again in June. He has applied for multiple federal loans and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and says all his applications are still pending. "Every day you check [your email], you search PPP and just pray you didn't miss [the email] and it's just all my submissions, nothing coming back. It's horrible," he said.

Both Shah and Tiberi said they know they aren't alone, and they know the extended closure is in the interest of public safety. They just worry how business will return to the way it once was – and when.

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