‘There’s absolutely no way this is feasible’: The Emory’s owner doesn’t know if his new restaurant can survive COVID-19

"I think we all have to realize that things are never going to be the same after this."

The Emory dining room
The Emory dining room. –Brian Samuels Photography

In our “My restaurant’s story” series, restaurant owners in the Greater Boston area share how COVID-19 has affected their business. If you’re a restaurant owner, you can share your story here.

In restaurant years, The Emory is still an infant.

The neighborhood newcomer opened in Beacon Hill in August of last year, and quickly drew raves for its classic, no-fuss offerings: baked potato beignets, an excellent burger, and innovative cocktail offerings. “I can’t believe I get to do this,” owner Emory “Andy” Kilgore told Boston.com shortly before The Emory debuted — his very first restaurant, after spending more than 25 years in the industry at places like No. 9 Park, Stoddard’s, and Broad Street Riot.

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Now, The Emory, named after generations of men in the Kilgore family, has closed. Kilgore had to lay off 18 members of his staff, and his landlord is still expecting rent. Kilgore shared how COVID-19 has affected him and his business since the pandemic first landed in Boston.

Entries may have been lightly edited for clarity or grammar.

Name: Emory “Andy” Kilgore
Restaurant: The Emory, Boston

What is The Emory’s COVID-19 story?  

Andy Kilgore, owner of The Emory
Andy Kilgore, owner of The Emory. —Photo provided

The Emory opened in August last year on Beacon Hill. My wife and I have an SBA [Small Business Administration] loan using our Somerville home as collateral, and used a large part of our savings to get [the restaurant] up and running. As with all startups, in addition to standard operating costs, we are paying off debt for construction, equipment, etc.

While the first couple of years are tough for any new business, we were carving out a niche in the neighborhood and felt good about the direction things were headed. January was busier than expected and things were going well. In the weeks before the mandatory shut down, we saw a steady decline in business as people got nervous and started to isolate. Of course, with the shut down, we had to lay off all of our employees.

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What has been the hardest part so far? 

One of my employee’s father passed away from COVID-19 [last] week. I think we all have to realize that things are never going to be the same after this.

What kind of financial hardship has your restaurant faced?

[There has been a] total stop of revenue. We’ve had no income for weeks and declining income for weeks before that. In addition, the insurance we all pay for by law is declining to cover any losses during this period. My landlord is expecting to be paid “business as usual.” There’s absolutely no way this is feasible.

What do restaurants need right now?

Rent relief is probably number one. Utility bills are coming in, so help with those would be good as well. Federal relief is weeks or months away. The Massachusetts legislature is considering a bill that would force insurance companies to cover loss of revenue for business interruption. That would be huge.

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