Pinky and Red’s struggles to reopen due to COVID-19 pandemic

pinky and reds restaurant
Jenna Wong/File

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Pinky and Red’s, a Black-owned restaurant in UC Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, is in financial trouble due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to government-issued shelter-in-place orders, Pinky and Red’s faces the challenges of UC Berkeley closing the student union and the majority of its student customers being away from campus.

“Even before then when the university switched to remote instruction, the number of students in the city had dwindled and demand was low,” said Ken Lohatepanont, chair of the ASUC Student Union Board of Directors.

Although Pinky and Red’s received a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, to bring back employees for the first few weeks of reopening, it was also anticipating receiving an SBA disaster loan, according to Bernadine “Pinky” Sewell, the owner of Pinky and Red’s.

“I was denied due to unsatisfactory credit history, which is just so devastating,” Sewell said. “This is just another way that they’re suppressing small Black-owned businesses.”

According to Sewell, in order to reopen in the fall Pinky and Red’s will need a lot of financial support, as it has exhausted all of its savings. Sewell set up a GoFundMe page Monday and has asked for community donations on Facebook and Instagram.

The Berkeley community has responded earnestly, raising more than $8,000 of the $10,000 goal in just a few days. Many students care deeply about Pinky and Red’s, viewing it almost as a “home away from home,” according to Priscilla Mendoza, a rising junior at UC Berkeley.

“Pinky and her staff are always going the extra mile to put a smile on students’ faces,” Mendoza said. “So many other Berkeley students can attest to that.”

Along with its “phenomenal service, kindness and great food,” according to Mendoza, Pinky and Red’s also gives back to the community extensively.

“In 2018 for Thanksgiving … we gave a dinner for people who couldn’t afford to go home,” Sewell said.

Additionally, Pinky and Red’s is a no-waste facility, donating leftovers to the emergency food pantry and the homeless community, according to Sewell.

Sewell said she appreciates all the love and support Pinky and Red’s is receiving but also said she thinks people should look more closely at the racial disparities in the struggles of small business owners.

“This needs to be addressed, because if it isn’t, small Black-owned businesses will not survive,” Sewell said.

Pinky and Red’s will reopen within the next several weeks for curbside pickup. Sewell said she is committed to serving the community with the “same love” as she did prior to COVID-19.

Contact Vani Suresh at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @vanisuresh_