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Owners of Ben’s Chili Bowl Determined to Keep Restaurant Afloat

Coronavirus Pandemic Causes At Least 80 Percent Drop in Business

The owners of Ben’s Chili Bowl’s flagship restaurant in northwest D.C. say that despite a glaring reduction in revenue brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, they remain committed to keeping their lone standing eatery afloat.

Sage Ali, who along with his elderly mother Virginia and other family members had expanded their business to seven restaurants at one point, told ABC News that while their small diner on U Street had survived the riots of 1968, they’ve never endured a financial fallout to the extent that the virus has left them to deal with.

Although the family applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan under the newly crafted federal government-operated stimulus package, they said they’ve been stuck in limbo as lawmakers who passed the $484 billion relief package clashed over how best to spend the funds on other rescue programs.

“I’ll be honest with you, it’s a little bit emotional. To tell Mom we didn’t get that loan, it was hard, seeing her face,” Ali told the news network. “Mom is 86 — a very young, very sharp 86. Mom understands very well the financial situation right now, and she knew how critical that funding was. So, for me to get off the phone and walk into that other room and say, ‘Guys, it didn’t go in,’ that was a very tough moment for me.”

Ali said that after applying for a PPP loan at Citi First of DC, it seemed like bank officials kept coming back for more information.

“We were following the guidelines — go to one bank at a time — but we got left out,” Ali’s wife Vida said, ABC reported. “I was shocked when the money was out.”

Yet the family has committed itself to keeping the U Street location up and running.

“The second it opens up again, we should be going right in,” Sage said of the PPP program.

“You want to be confident. You want to be hopeful,” Ali told ABC. “U Street could never close. We’re telling Mom, we can’t close that location after everything you did to survive. Even if it’s down to five people. Whatever it takes.”

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