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Local Catering Company Faces Possible Closure Due to Coronavirus

Updated 3/23 — Owner Rich Vizard thanked the Arlington community for recent support, noted the sanitary precautions they are following, and thanked the County Treasurer for tax relief options passed after publication of the story.

Allspice Catering wants to thank the community for its support during these unprecedented times. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we respond to questions and orders. We want to stress that we are staying vigilant during this time and continue to follow all the ServSafe Guidelines to prevent the Coronavirus in a food establishment. We are committed to taking all precautions to protect our customers and our staff including being mindful of proper habits to follow outside of the workplace to protect ourselves and each other. I’d also like to thank Treasurer Carla de la Pava for taking quick decisive action on local tax relief options for restaurants and hotels. Be safe and take care of each other.

Earlier: In the span of a week or two, Allspice Catering (6017 Wilson Blvd) has gone from having a decent balance sheet to having roughly two months left to live — tops.

“There’s no business,” said owner Rich Vizard, owner of the company since he bought it from the original owners in 2013. “I normally do $15,000 a week. This week I had $235 in orders. We are completely, utterly dead in the water.”

Like Allspice Catering — formerly based in Rosslyn but now in Dominion Hills — businesses across Arlington have felt the strain of the coronavirus crisis. Allspice Catering has attempted to pivot to takeout, but it faces stiff competition against restaurants that are familiar and household names attempting to do the same, in a bid to survive.

Vizard said he recognized that people were more likely to order from a restaurant that they already knew and it puts his company at a significant disadvantage.

“We’ve done some takeout menus and had some personal takeout for people who want to order breakfast, lunch or dinner,” Vizard said. “We signed up for DoorDash and did a lot of promotion on social media.”

It wasn’t enough to keep the company from facing layoffs.

“In seven years I never had to lay off an employee, now I had to lay off all of them,” Vizard said. “The only one I’ve kept on is my chef because I can’t afford to lose him. I’m paying him full salary and I don’t know how.”

Vizard said his company has weathered government shutdowns and their original Rosslyn location being slated for demolition. Time after time, Vizard said his company had to fight its way to the finish line but he always knew they could come through.

“This one… we can’t,” Vizard said. “It’s so beyond our control. There’s just no business. We’re a heavily corporate catering company. Our bread and butter was corporate [events] and a few weddings, but everyone is teleworking and all the events are canceled.”

Vizard said all of the orders between the last week and the middle of April — $45,000 total — have canceled. Adding insult to injury was an order planned with Arlington County government that he called repeatedly to confirm, only to hear back after the meals had already been prepared that someone in the administration had forgotten to cancel the order.

“If we don’t pay a single bill and beg our landlord to extend us time, I think we could hold on for a month or two,” Vizard said. “After that we exhaust all lines of credit — two months max.”

While Alexandria is suspending its meal tax collection, Vizard shared an email correspondence with Arlington’s business tax supervisor saying businesses should continue paying their taxes to Arlington and there was no explicit permission from the state allowing Arlington to grant exceptions to tax collection for businesses in the event of a disease or other public health concern.

In the meantime, Vizard said he’s filed for a Small Business Association loan and he hopes takeout and gift certificates will be enough to weather the crisis.

“We have some inexpensive meals that can be delivered or picked up,” Vizard said. “Hopefully something good will happen… we’re going to try to ride it out as best we can and push off payments.”

File photo

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