Michael Matrinko’s New Brown Jug would normally be packed at this time of year, with March Madness in full swing, the Celtics and Bruins heading to the playoffs, and the Red Sox getting ready to start their season.
But everything is different because of the global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus.
The bar, where patrons would be watching the games and commiserating about Tom Brady leaving the Patriots, is empty. The dining area, where customers would be feasting on the Jug’s incomparable pizza, is clear.
It’s an unprecedented time for Michael Matrinko, his wife, Cheryl Visconti, and their son, Michael Matrinko Jr., who like restaurant owners across the city, are complying with Gov. Charlie Baker’s declaration of takeout orders and deliveries only for all bars and restaurants in Massachusetts.
“I have zero people sitting at my sports bar and zero people sitting in my lovely dining room,” said Matrinko, echoing a theme among proprietors in Chelsea.
Matrinko said takeouts and deliveries are moving along smoothly at the Jug. “I’m hoping and praying that it increases big time because that’s only about 22 percent of my business,” said Matrinko.
The popular Chelsea High hoopster and 1971 graduate is reaching out to customers through Facebook, Instagram, the Jug website, and a Chelsea Record advertisement that he is open for pizza and deliveries.
“The people that come here for takeout are very happy that we’re open,” said Matrinko. “Some people have said to me, ‘What do you mean I can’t sit down?’ “And I tell them, ‘folks, the Governor said all bars and restaurants are closed. All I can is takeout and delivery.’ Those are the people that are shocked.”
Matrinko said the closure is particularly hard hitting economically because March is perennially the busiest month of the year at the Jug.
“You have the NCAA Tournament, the Celtics, the Bruins, and for the older crowd like me, the start of baseball season,” said Matrinko. “That is the wipeout that I’m experiencing right now.”
At New Bridge Café, home to legendary steak tips, proprietor Ed McCarthy Jr. also addressed the new regulations being mandated statewide.
“First and foremost, we want to make sure all of our customers are safe as possible,” said McCarthy. “We hope that people will come back when everything is over. I would suggest that customers buy gift certificates to their favorite restaurants and that will help them as far as cash flow goes – once this over with, everyone will be back out and be fine and having a good time.”
Boston sportscaster Chris Collins, a longtime friend of McCarthy’s and a loyal New Bridge customer, said, “I will be here to support Ed and New Bridge Café during these difficult times and hope and pray that life will soon return to normal. Together we must be safe and be healthy.”
Cuthie Encourages Residents to Support Local Restaurants
Chelsea Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rich Cuthie released the following statement about restaurants this week:
“Restaurants operate on razor-thin margins at the best of times, so this is an especially difficult time for Chelsea’s eateries. And I can think of at least three places right now that have just recently opened. We want to encourage everyone to support our restaurants, cafes, and bakeries as much as they are able within the confines of the Federal and State governments’ guidance.”
“As part of the Financial Impacts sub-group of Chelsea’s COVID-19 Community Response Team, we’re putting together a list of all the restaurants in Chelsea and whether they’re offering take-out and/or delivery. We’re getting that list out through every channel as soon as possible. Another way to help, especially our small, independent restaurants, is to purchase a gift card or gift certificate for restaurants. That will give them some funds now when they’re most needed.”
“I’ve been working hard to get information out to businesses and employers, whether or not they are Chamber members, about the Commonwealth’s Small Business Recovery Loan Fund, the Federal government’s Disaster Loan Assistance program through the Small Business Administration, and the welcome changes to unemployment insurance claims as a result of the health emergency. Please visit www.chelseachamber.org for daily updates.”