The week of March 9, 28 employees worked for Asch and Kate Mikhail at Sunny Street Cafe at 7042 Hospital Drive in Dublin.
As of March 20, the Dublin residents were overseeing a skeleton crew of four.
Following an order by Gov. Mike DeWine on March 15 to prohibit dine-in service at Ohio restaurants and bars to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the couple made the difficult decision to lay off most of their staff members – people Asch Mikhail said were “like family.”
Kate Mikhail, 56, said the hardest part about complying with the closure was saying goodbye to the staff.
“We’re a very close-knit group here,” she said. “I really, truly miss them.”
As soon as the breakfast-and-lunch restaurant is allowed to reopen for dine-in service, the employees would get their jobs back, Asch Mikhail, 46, said.
But that didn’t make the decision any easier.
“All restaurants are in the same boat,” he said.
One of the employees without a job right now is Powell resident Crystal Keister, who had worked with the Mikhails for nearly three years.
“It was very, very slow” that Sunday, March 15, when she was on her shift, Keister said. When she first heard DeWine’s afternoon announcement that bars and restaurants had to close their dining rooms by 9 p.m., she initially thought he meant by 9 p.m every night.
Later, she said, she was sitting in her living room, and the reality of the situation hit her.
Keister said she has served for more than two decades, starting when she was 16. She never thought this would happen, she said.
“It was shocking,” she said.
Keister said her front-of-house manager sent a group text message about DeWine’s announcement, and she told staff members when the restriction was lifted, their jobs would be waiting
But for now, Keister is without income for the first time since she was 16.
A single parent, Keister, 39, has a 19-year-old son, Demetrius, who lives at home and attends college. She said he still is employed at a local pizza place.
Keister is also the mother of Lincoln-Paul, who is 2 1/2.
She planned to apply for unemployment.
But when the coronavirus pandemic is all over, she intends to return to Sunny Street.
“It’s like a family,” she said.
The Mikhails opened Sunny Street in February 2010 during “one of the worst winters ever,” Asch Mikhail said.
“We wanted to start our own business and live the American dream,” he said.
A family atmosphere has a part of the restaurant since the beginning, Asch Mikhail said.
“Sunny Street Cafe was a good fit with our ideals,” he said. “It is a family friendly restaurant with no alcohol, and it is community based. We wanted to have a business that we could do good for our community, with lots of giveback, while also making a living.
“We are heavily involved with charities and the schools, always giving whenever possible.”
The restaurant normally is open for breakfast and lunch, from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., according to Asch Mikhail.
As of March 23, Sunny Street still was offering carryout and delivery from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. through such services as Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub, Asch Mikhail said. The delivery services collect 30% of the ticket price, leaving a very low amount of money with which to pay workers, he said.
Although she and her husband are grateful for the third-party delivery services, Kate Mikhail said, Sunny Street also was providing no-contact curbside delivery for customers who call orders directly to the restaurant at 614-389-3640 or the catering line at 614-949-9197.
Catering services have free delivery in Dublin, with a small fee outside Dublin, Asch Mikhail said.
Still, the lack of dine-in customers has taken a toll.
Asch Mikhail said regular sales are down 80% to 90%. And although support from social media is wonderful, “words are great, but it’s not helping to pay any bills,” he said.
“Every day that we’re open, we’re losing money,” he said.