ABOVE: Patrick Schmidt, Rob Doyle, Julian Dennison and Tony Doyle of HKH Hospitality.

By Evan Triantafilidis

Patrick Schmidt of HKH Hospitality said the $20,000 grant he received went toward keeping employees working and motivated through the pandemic.

At Mom’s Kitchen and Bar in Astoria, Schmidt recalls the first few months of the pandemic as unpredictable and intense. The same can be said for his other restaurant, William & Willow, located just south of Astoria Park.

“You didn’t know what to expect,” said Schmidt. “All of the businesses are only worth anything if they’re open, and we didn’t know how long this thing was going to be. We had a bunch of keys to front doors, which is pretty much all we had.”

Business temporarily shut down for about a month between March and April of last year, but Schmidt said that by taking it day-by-day and seeking different relief opportunities helped maintain a working staff and keep morale high.

“I stayed plugged in, watched a lot of webinars and kept up to date with opportunities to request relief,” he said. “This has been a great opportunity for us, and it’s really helped to put some of those funds back into the place and to make sure we kept our staff on.”

With limited outdoor seating before the pandemic began, Schmidt says expanding outdoor dining has been a massive success for the restaurants, even in the winter months.

“We were surprised at how many people were willing to sit outside in 30 degree weather with their coats on,” said Schmidt. “We stayed open for the community and they supported us, and now here we are hopefully on the other side of it.”

Schmidt hopes to see permanent licenses granted to the roadside structures that were built for outdoor dining.

“It’s really changed the game,” said Schmidt. “It’s changed the way people dine in New York City. Hopefully, it’s something that is here to stay.”

As the recipient of two separate grants from the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Schmidt says the relief has “lessened the blow” his businesses endured over the past year-and-a-half.

“The whole last 18 months hasn’t been about making profit, it’s been about surviving,” said Schmidt. “Getting to now or next year, you’re just trying to stay open, stay relevant and keep it moving. The money that we got from the grant opportunity has been really helpful to put that back into the business and make sure we’re keeping our team going.”

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