CHICAGO (CBS) — Sobering numbers from the Illinois Restaurant Association.
Sales are down 80% statewide. And of the state’s roughly 594,000 restaurant employees. Almost half have been laid off or furloughed.
CBS 2’s Marissa Parra has the story of Tuan Nguyen, who watched his American dream crumble before his eyes.
For 14 years, Simply It was the light of Tuan Nguyen’s life. But the lights are off at the Vietnamese restaurant where he made his American dream come true.
“Very emotional. This looked like my child for 14 years,” Nyguyen said.
His story is a familiar one in the service industry. It’s where weeks of shuttered doors and scattered food orders in a pandemic were the final nails in the coffin.
Illinois Restaurants Association estimates 20% of all the state’s restaurants may never open again as a result of the pandemic.
“When pandemic… COVID-19, I totally gave up. I could not stand,” Nguyen said. “COVID-19 2020 destroyed my dream.”
Nguyen is no stranger to hardship. Forty-five years ago, he fled to America as a Vietnam War refugee. He never lost his resolve, even when the long hours were painful.
“Every night when I would go home, I could not walk anymore, I’d have to hold the stairway,” he remembered.
Nguyen never let go of his dream of owning his own restaurant, a dream he finally saw come true in 2006.
“My passion is restaurants. I love the food and I love the cooking,” Nguyen said. But most of all, he loved the people and they loved him
“They used to call me “Little uncle Tuan.” I’m a short guy”
With hands stiff from arthritis “uncle Tuan” penned the most painful letter of his life, announcing his restaurant would never open its doors again. It’s been two weeks since, but sometimes, he says still cries over the stacked chairs on tables he’ll never serve food on again.
But even in darkness, the 67-year-old is finding the light.
“Everything will be okay sooner or later. Everything is in god’s hands and I strongly believe that,” Nguyen said.
He did apply for PPP, the Paycheck Protection Program, but he didn’t get accepted in time. But Tuan is always looking forward. He’s starting from scratch working as an employee at a new restaurant they’re launching, Simply Pasteur, fighting against the odds for another chance.