New businesses facing challenges of opening during pandemic

SE Mass

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — While longtime restaurants and catering companies have really had to pivot to adapt to the pandemic and make sure everyone’s safety is top priority, there are some that actually opened amidst the pandemic. The fact that they’re a new restaurant, though, has brought with it some different challenges.

“We’ve been really blessed by the community coming out.”

Dough Company, or DoCo as it’s called, in New Bedford is a passion project for owner’s Jason and Jillian Cotter.

They opened in June of 2020, but had been in the works since March of 2019, renovating the space at the Kilburn Mill.

“We were already so invested into this project that when we were ready to open, we had to open, we didn’t have a choice, even though it was the pandemic, so we’ve just been doing the best we can, doing what we can, in order to create business and keep the business alive,” Jillian said.

While the community support is there with takeout, delivery and getting the word out on social media, the government assistance is not.

“Still showing us a lot of support but we’re still handcuffed and, a tough struggle still. We’re not able to have our full dining room full, our upstairs space, so even though we have a lot of support, we still need a lot more to be at least where we plan to be,” Jason said.

“Only assistance we were able to get was from the SBA because we do have an SBA loan that we got, a small business loan in order to start the business, so originally we did qualify for some assistance from them, which has ran out, that ran out in October,” said Jillian.

DoCo and other new businesses in New Bedford aren’t eligible for federal grant money through the Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant Program because that’s only for businesses that opened prior to September of 2019.

“They want to look at your 2019 books,” said City Councilor Ian Abreu. “They want to see losses, where you were last year, where you are this year. They want to make a comparison but you have to make an exception in some of these cases in my opinion. I’ve been asking our state and federal delegation to step in and help these local businesses that give our community so much.”

Abreu is requesting that the state and federal lawmakers find stimulus solutions to help these businesses too.

“You take the 25% occupancy and then you add on the fact that you can’t make yourself privy to any state or federal funding, and this is just a recipe for disaster. Our state and federal delegation need to step in and help these folks,” he said.

DoCo’s location inside the Kilburn Mill makes it ideal for receptions or catered events, and that’s a large part of what they want for their business. But that goal is being put on hold until gathering sizes can increase again.

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