NEWPORT NEWS-While the covid-19 pandemic has caused a number of health issues for people around the world, it has also had a devastating impact on local businesses that have been struggling for months. In the wake of staffing shortages and supply chain issues that are making it difficult to get basic supplies—such as to-go boxes and other restaurant staples—two area restaurants were recently forced to close their doors.
In 2014, Rick Lugent and Libby MacDonald took over Mikes’ Place, an Irish Pub located on the opposite end of the Warwick Shopping Center from Smoke Restaurant off Warwick Boulevard in Newport News. Rick & Libby’s enjoyed nearly eight years of service to a community that had been going to the location for more than 33 years prior before officially closing their doors on October 3.
In a note posted on their Facebook Page on September 23, Lugent and MacDonald took the opportunity to thank their patrons and staff. “It was a privilege to serve our community over the last eight years, but we have reached the difficult decision to close our doors. Our last day of service will be on Sunday, October 3rd. We purchased the restaurant in January 2014 and with your support, were able to grow and nurture our version of what started in this location in 1981. We are thankful for our employees, our customers, and the relationships we have been able to build in our community.”
While Lugent and MacDonald did not specifically cite a reason for closing, Julie Yacobi, owner of Yannas’ Taverna in Newport News since 2016, was much more open about why she was closing her doors. In a Facebook post from October 7, Yacobi stated, “With a heavy heart and much thought, we have to announce Yannas’ will be closing for good come October 23, 2021. We have made many friends these past years and we will miss you all dearly. My health is suffering, and I cannot keep going at the pace. With covid, staffing, equipment failures, and many other obstacles we have faced, it’s time to call it quits. We thank you all for your support and patience you have shown us this past year and a half. We will miss you!!!”
Another Facebook post from September 18, offered a precursor for the closing. “It has been a trying time for a small business,” Yacobi wrote. “Please keep in mind we are doing our best. I have one person in the kitchen with me, just one!! That means I do not have a dishwasher, so I am the dishwasher, prep cook, line cook, bill payer, shopper, and many more! When we were fully staffed, before the pandemic, we had a total of 11 employees. Currently we have 3. I know most of you understand what we are going through. I’m sorry our menu is limited but you have to understand I make almost everything in house, not frozen in a pan and just put it in the oven. My time is taken up by all the other responsibilities I have taken on. Hopefully, we will be able to get more staff so I can concentrate on making more of our menu items that you all love. Thank you for your continued patience!!”
After a new spike in covid cases in September for Virginians, the numbers are starting to go back down again despite the Delta variant of the virus. However, staffing shortages remain, and supply chain issues are expected to continue into mid or late 2022. Many other local small businesses may be forced to make similar difficult decisions before the economic environment returns to “normal.”