Hours before Gov. Larry Hogan announced new business restrictions on Tuesday, one veteran restauranteur reflected on what's been a trying year — and his decision to ultimately close up shop.
Many businesses have been navigating the new restrictions and adapting as needed, but Ralph Izadi, owner of the now closed Rafi Ristorante, said he just didn't feel it'd be worth it to soldier on in the face of increasing regulations amid the pandemic.
Izadi was the owner of Nido's from 1987 to 2014, when he sold the downtown Frederick eatery. A year later, he came out of retirement to open Rafi Ristorante on Thomas Johnson Drive.
When the shutdowns first started in March, Izadi knew carryout service wouldn't be enough to help his 16 employees throughout the pandemic. As a mainly dine-in dinner service restaurant, he figured his business wouldn't transfer over to carryout very efficiently.
Three months later, he decided to close permanently.
"I closed because I knew it was going to take a long time [to return to normal]," Izadi said. "And my prediction was right. I couldn't handle it."
Rafi Ristorante is not the only casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. Many other businesses in the county have shut down, although there is no official count yet, according to the Frederick County Office of Economic Development. The Kitchen Studio closed its physical location at the end of the summer. Cakes to Die For, the bakery on Market Street, announced this week it is closing at the end of November after seven years in business. Flippin' Pizza, a chain with a spot on South Market, also closed recently.
Izadi's kids have wanted him to retire for quite some time, and while he considers himself in retirement now, he didn't plan on it happening so soon.
While Izadi applied for different small business loans and grants, none of them materialized.
"They gave it to the rich people," he said with a laugh. "They don't give to small businesses."
Izadi tried opening for one week for carryout and only had a couple of calls. That furthered his belief that his eatery wasn't suited for takeout.
"I'm at home now, doing some gardening, reading books, stuff like that," Izadi said. "I was in the restaurant business for almost 50 years, and it was time for me to retire."
Izadi said he feels like he disappointed his base of loyal customers by closing so suddenly. Hundreds of emails began flooding in, sending their well wishes.
While he couldn't promise any of them that he would open again in the future, he did begin selling his signature pasta sauce at McCutcheon's Factory Store in Frederick.
"I'm making people happy," Izadi said. "Because they used to come to the restaurant and buy it, now McCutcheon's is making my sauce."
The restaurateur is open to the idea of somebody else taking over the restaurant, with the same recipes he started with. He would also be willing to be a manager, but he does not wish to own a restaurant anymore.
"That would make a lot of people happy," he said.