NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Sen. Tim Kaine and Congresswoman Elaine Luria spent some of Wednesday visiting local Latino-owned restaurants in Hampton Roads Wednesday.
Jessy’s was one of three local restaurants the politicians stopped at around lunchtime.
General manager for Jessy’s Taqueria, Roberto Reyes, says during the first few months of the pandemic, their sales went down more than 70 percent.
“It’s been a rough time, but I think so far there’s been a lot of good decisions to get us back on track,” said Reyes.
He says after the first few months, when businesses were allowed to sell their cocktails to-go, their sales went back up some.
Since then, they’ve been able to maintain some business, but there have also been problems getting staff to return to work.
Reyes says they were able to get some financial aid, but not the full amount. They’re also still waiting for some to come in.
The team expressed their concerns about future funding and even language barriers for applying for that funding to Kaine and Luria.
“They should start thinking about what’s going to happen in the winter. It’s not just us that puts away money in the summer to be able to not cut hours in the winter, and we don’t have that cushion this time. The summer is gone and our sales never got up to 100 percent,” Reyes said.
Kaine said he took in all of their concerns and understands the need for continued funding as they go back to Congress next week.
He said he also wants to make the applications for those funds an easier process for the Latino community.
“Qualifying for these programs isn’t automatic, especially if there’s any language barriers, so something we’ve heard loud and clear from [not only] Jessy’s but also the chamber folks, is there’s got to be more assistance to Latino businesses if their owners are Spanish-speaking,” said Kaine.
Luria said after the conversation, she also recognizes how important the chambers of commerce are to these businesses’ success over the coming months.
“When we move forward in the next phase of legislation, those organizations that help businesses the resources, they need the resources to continue that work,” Luria said.
Kaine and Luria say they will be taking everything they learned in their visits Wednesday back to see what they can implement on the federal level.
The two also visited Tienda La Bendición and Bilu’s Colombian Restaurant in Virginia Beach.