New York City has become one of the epicenters of the COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, pandemic in America. Due to mandatory stay-at-home restrictions, any business deemed “non-essential” has been closed down. Restaurants have been especially hit hard, with many struggling to stay afloat during the viral outbreak. One famous Harlem institution is giving back to the community with free meals to local residents.
Sylvia’s Restaurant has been a culinary landmark in the Harlem neighborhood for nearly 60 years. Celebrities, and even royals, have famously attended the restaurant best known for its soul food dishes and its soulful Sunday brunches. Normally the restaurant hosts its popular Gospel Brunch every Sunday which has since been canceled because of the pandemic. Instead, the owners decided to fill in that time by distributing food and groceries to local Harlem residents.
“We are always there for those that are in need,” said owner Kenneth Woods to NY1. “When our community hurts, we hurt. We do whatever we can to assist in that endeavor.”
NY1 reported that the Harlem restaurant would be teaming up with Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and CARES organization to launch a new community initiative called Sunday Supper. The new move would create a pantry where residents can get bags of food items from Sylvia’s nationally distributed food product line.
“I’ve been to Sylvia’s with everyone from James Brown to Barack Obama. Now, Sylvia’s owners are giving back to the people,” Sharpton said to NY1. “It’s special for people to come to the place they always came to dine, to know that they care about them.”
The restaurant is also selling gift cards online for customers to use when the restaurant can fully open and use a portion of the funds to donate to local community efforts for COVID-19 relief in the neighborhood.