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Owner Of San Francisco's Popular New Delhi Restaurant Hopeful Despite Pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- A popular Indian restaurant in San Francisco that has hosted presidents, royalty, and 'A list' celebrities was on the brink of closing during the pandemic.

As pandemic pressure nearly shut down The New Delhi Restaurant, Ranjan Day's restaurant of 33 years, he started feeling the heat.

"I was totally lost. I was not getting anywhere. I was not getting the PPP and I was not getting the loans. Nothing," said Dey.

He recalled when President Bill Clinton visited the restaurant and even took a question from Dey's daughter.

"He sits down on this chair, to get to her level. 'Yes honey what do you want to know? She's like 'do you like broccoli?'" said Dey.

He hasn't shared a restaurant tradition publicly until now: Whenever someone famous dines at the restaurant, Dey at the end of the night flips over the chair, and writes the celebrity's name with a sharpie.

He wonders if patrons will now check the bottom of chairs the next time they dine in.

The list of celebrities is long including Vice-President Kamala Harris, Deepak Chopra, Hillary Clinton, and actor Anthony Hopkins, just to name a few.

"He's more of a fish and vegetable guy. No brains," said Dey.

That recent visit from Hopkins may not have happened, if not for a patron's daughter specializing in small business loans.

She heard of the restaurant's troubles during the pandemic and gave an assist.

"Every disaster has a seed of opportunity. It's how you look at it. How you decide to pivot yourself to come out stronger on the other side. Today I'm way stronger than when I entered the pandemic, and that's because of my community," said Dey.

The 64-year-old chuckles lightheartedly even when facing staffing shortages and inflationary pressures these days. The list goes on.

Business is picking up these days and his message to anyone facing pandemic hardship, is clear.

"The most important thing is hope versus hopelessness, trust versus distrust. When I trust you, I am light," said Dey.

It's a light that burns bright in Union Square and beyond.

The city of San Francisco recognized New Delhi Restaurant as a 'legacy business' in 2020, an honor given to longstanding businesses for their contributions to their communities.

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