Black-owned Bars and Restaurants Struggle to Survive During Pandemic

Without a half million dollars of funding from the city, the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition claims all of Boston’s Black-owned bars and restaurants are in jeopardy of closing

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As tough as the restaurant industry has it these days, many Black-owned restaurants and bars in Boston have been hit even harder because their communities are feeling some of the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Being closed for the past three months has been a financial hardship on us," said Jordan Poindexter, co-owner of Wally’s Café Jazz Club. “A lot of businesses that are owned by minorities sometimes struggle to survive in Boston due to systemic oppression.”

Founded in 1947, Wally’s touts itself as the oldest jazz club in New England. But no one has played a note there for months due to the coronavirus pandemic dealing a blow to its bottom line.  

“People were reaching out asking how they could help us out," Poindexter said.

Jordan and her sister, Jalisa Poindexter, started a fundraiser for their 73-year-old family business, raising more than $40,000.

“This place is a place for musicians to come and perfect their craft," Jalisa said.

The money also allows their father, Frank, to expand Wally’s student music program. Still, they’re not out of the woods yet.

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While the restaurant industry has been devastated during the pandemic, its disproportionate impact on communities of color has hit the state’s Black-owned bars and restaurants even harder. estimates just 150 of the state’s 16,000 bars and restaurants are Black-owned.

Making matters worse, Black business owners face more difficulty securing credit or loans for their businesses and those that do are often hit with higher interest rates.

Cheryl Straughter, who owns Soleil in Roxbury, said PPP government funding and grants are not enough to get them through the pandemic because many of her customers have been impacted by the crisis.

“The revenue that the households have is a little bit less so it is impacting us in general," Straughter said.

Soleil and Wally’s are part of the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition, which aims to raise funds to help Black-owned businesses stay afloat. They estimate more than a million dollars in lost revenue from the pandemic with 90 percent of the mostly minority workforce laid off.

“Things have not been equal," Straughter said. "The ability to get capital has not been equal.”

The Boston Black Hospitality Coalition is working with the city to come up with a way to create a collective outdoor space where mini-wagon bars and restaurants can serve their community to offset some of the lost revenue. 

Without a half million dollars of funding from the city, the coalition said all of Boston’s Black-owned bars and restaurants are in jeopardy of closing.

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