NEW YORK—He’s on one hour of sleep yet he still has glowing skin and no bags under his eyes. He runs a restaurant, works as an attorney, and takes care of his elderly mother and disabled sister. And despite the pandemic, he keeps his Hawaiian-themed restaurant open and even offers free meals to medical workers at local hospitals.
“I’m not keeping these doors open for profit. Just doing it for the jobs that it could create in the short term and saying thanks,” restaurant owner Frank Vellucci told NTD.
Yet Vellucci keeps a smile on his face and stays open to allow his employees to get a paycheck and to salute our heroes in the medical field.
“We’ve had physical therapists, we’ve had doctors, we’ve had nurses, we’ve had everybody,” Vellucci said. “All you need to do is come in, flash a badge and we’re happy to give them a bowl.”
His restaurant, Sweetcatch Poke, has four open locations in Manhattan, and Vellucci said he plans to continue offering free food to medical staff until the crisis is over.
Across the country, a few chains like Starbucks and Krispy Kreme, as well as some local restaurants have offered freebies to medical staff.
An internal medicine resident at New York University (NYU) Medical Center, who also works at Bellevue Hospital, paid a visit to Vellucci’s restaurant on Madison Ave.
“Different restaurants have been coming through and you know just the little pick me ups make a big difference after a hard shift, so it’s been great,” said Dr. Brianna Knoll.
Vellucci, who works two jobs and takes care of his 87-year-old mother and disabled sister, drives their home health aid workers to and from work since the subway is risky and has been crowded at times after service cuts.
@MTA @NYCTSubway @NYGovCuomo @NYCMayor PEOPLE ARE NOT LISTENING. Y’all have to have stricter restrictions on the subways!!! These can not be all essential workers at 8:50 on a Saturday morning…this is a 1 train. pic.twitter.com/qLPKNYVr18
— Meghan Suminski (@theMegsyyyyy) March 28, 2020
This doesn’t give him much time for shut-eye. “[I] went to sleep around five and then we have two kittens that wanted to get fed at 6 a.m., so it was a short little nap this morning,” Vellucci said.
His revenue has gone down 90 percent since early March when cases of the CCP virus started increasing drastically in the city. But that hasn’t stopped him from giving back.
“That kind of gives them a little bit of a relief, and [I] just want to say thank you and give something back to them for what they’re doing for New Yorkers,” he said.
Dr. Neha Nagpal, who is an internal medicine resident at NYU, says the free poke bowl was the highlight of her day off, and she appreciates people taking care of themselves as it contributes to less chaos at the hospital.
“People seem to be staying home when they need to stay home and coming when they need to come so that’s really helpful for us,” Nagpal said.
Nagpal says the hospital sites she works at are already expanding their capacity and have started using departments like surgery to treat COVID-19 patients.
Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KRHogan_NTD