As COVID-19 impacts business, Luca’s owner still gives back to community

By: Adrienne Wallace | Email: Click Here
Posted: March 26, 2020 | 12:30 p.m.

Pedraza donates hundreds of meals to PG families 

PRINCE GEORGE –  Despite that two local restaurants have lost more than 50 percent of its sales being forced to close one location, owner Luis Pedraza decided to give free food to Prince George families in need.

The restaurateur closed Morelia Mexican Restaurant so he could combine staff and give as many workers hours combing them at Luca’s Italian Restaurant. The cause of the decrease in customer base is due to COVID-19 and the governor’s order to limit all gathering places like restaurants and bars to 10 people. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued an emergency order to enforce a new statewide ban on having more than 10 patrons in restaurants, gyms and theaters.

His mandate gives local and state law enforcement the ability to enforce the ban.

It’s caused a financial strain on those businesses with many forced to close their doors unable to cover operation costs with the loss in revenue.

Luca’s is no exception.

Because of the large size of Luca’s the owners have been permitted to allow 10 in the banquet room, 10 in the waiting room and 10 in the dining area at one time.

Still that’s a major reduction in numbers, which has affected not only Luis and his family but the employees.

Luca’s employee Brandy Lewis says she’s never seen anything like this.

“It’s had a significant impact on the restaurant,” she said, noting that while they remain open calls continue to come to see if orders can be picked up with patrons thinking they are closed. Though, she admits there has been an uptick in take out and delivery orders, it isn’t close to covering the loss of in house dining.

Having four years under her belt, Lewis is not concerned at this point about losing her job, but also understands that may ultimately be the result of the epidemic and government regulations.

She praised her boss saying his actions during this time, “are courageous during this time of uncertainty.  I tell everyone he is the best boss I have ever had. He always tries to help others.”

Lewis said that many may step up when the cameras are on and they can get positive attention, but the Pedrazas are always giving.

Pedraza says that his employees are like family and many who can afford it have offered to cut their hours back to spare their coworkers who need the job to pay their bills. He and his family are still dedicated to help others.

“There are people who aren’t working and have no money for food,” the owner said. “I just knew there was something we had to do.”

What drives Luis and his wife Carmen Pedraza to be so community oriented?

After opening the two restaurants, the Mexican native went to visit his grandmother before she passed away. “She was very proud that we had two restaurants, but told me, ‘never forget where you came from,’” Luis recalled.

And he hasn’t. Always supporting community organizations and county functions, Luis Pedraza has earned many recognition including the Prince George Rotary Club named him the Business owner of the year in 2019.

But he doesn’t do these things for the honors, but for the people.

“This isn’t my restaurant – at least I don’t think of it that way,” he said. “I consider this Prince George’s restaurant, and it’s my home.”

He also considered the community and his staff his extended family and wants to be there for them.

During this COVID-19 epidemic, he has provided (as of press time) nearly 700 meals through a distribution point at Morelia. On the first Wednesday, the restaurant planned to distribute 300 chicken and cheese quesadillas at their Mexican restaurant along Courthouse Road, but gave out even more and more than that the following Tuesday with spaghetti dinners going out this week.

Supervisors Chairman Donald Hunter commended Pedraza for his efforts. “He’s gone above and beyond,” Hunter said. “I think that his actions are quite a supportive thing, and is the kind of thing others are doing in other localities as well the county.”

For two weeks he provided meals and hopes he can continue. “Unless we shut down, we will find a way,” Pedraza said as he is partnering with schools and the community. Even Prince George Police officers helped out with the distribution, which Pedraza says was more organized the second week with their help.

Though he continues to be dedicated to his staff, as well as feeding those who can’t feed their families due to loss of work as COVID19 has spread, Pedraza does worry about more losing their jobs and being forced to shut down completely.

And so do many others through there is hope this shall pass and things will get back to normal. In the meantime, Northam has made some changes to help those who may have to apply for unemployment and other assistance.

“Everyone must play a role to help flatten the curve and mitigate the spread of this virus, and that starts with social distancing,”  Northam said. “We know this will be a hardship for many businesses, and we are assisting workers affected by closures. Public health relies on every individual using common sense and making responsible decisions. We can and will get through this difficult time. But we must work together to do so.”

That form of help to protect working Virginians impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak comes in a few ways, according to the governor.

He said there will be no waiting for unemployment benefits with a waiver of the one-week waiting period to ensure workers can receive benefits as soon as possible.

Workers may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits if an employer needs to temporarily slow or cease operations due to COVID-19. If a worker has been issued a notice to self-quarantine by a medical or public health official and is not receiving paid sick or medical leave from their employer, they may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

For individuals receiving unemployment insurance, Virginia Employment Commission is directed to give affected workers special consideration on deadlines, mandatory reemployment appointments, and work search requirements.

Copyright 2020 by Womack Publishing
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