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So far, Sazon has been able to stay open. Image; Courtesy of Sazon.
So far, Sazon has been able to stay open. Image; Courtesy of Sazon.

At Sazón on Spring Garden, COVID-19 couldn’t stop a pair of “fighters” from staying afloat

Owner Judith Suzarra-Campbell and her husband opened Philly’s first traditional Venezuelan restaurant 16 years ago and are surviving on the generosity of loyal…

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Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Philadelphia in March of 2020, small businesses around the city have faced the brunt of its economic impact.

Around 11,000 of them are owned by Latinos.

One industry affected more than most is the restaurant industry.

One Latino-owned spot that has struggled to stay open is Sazon Restaurant and Cafe. 

The restaurant offers authentic, healthy Venezuelan cuisine and has been located in the city’s Northern Liberty section for over 16 years.

In an exclusive interview with AL DÍA, the owner and chef of Sazon, Judith Suzarra-Campbell, discussed the anger and frustration she and her husband have dealt with during the COVID-19 pandemic and how only being opened for take-out orders hasn’t been enough.

“My husband and I are fighters, we don’t give up. It would be a crime to let go of our business that we worked hard on. That is not happening,” she said.

One of the pair’s frustrations arose from not getting any help from the government.

“I applied for small business loans and grants, and I haven’t heard anything back from them. they’re letting small restaurants in Philly die,” she said.

Campbell said the amount of money Sazon has lost during the pandemic is nowhere near enough to pay the bills. 

“This is not an easy experience for us, our wholesale is down 60%, we had to furlough some full-time employees, that was very hard for us to do. My husband does deliveries and we only have a few part-time employees,” she said.

Outdoor dining was thought to be an initial option going forward, but it quickly became apparent that the effort also wasn’t affordable.

“We decided that it would be better for us to do take-out and offer deliveries. We clean and disinfect every inch of our restaurant,” Campbell said.

Sazon was the first traditional Venezuelan restaurant ever to open in Philadelphia, and with the support she receives from her loyal customers, Campbell says the restaurant will not let them down by going out of business. 

“If it weren’t for my loyal customers ordering take-out from my restaurant, I don’t think we would be open today. It would be a disappointment to close down,” she said.

Campbell also explained the importance of keeping Latino-owned restaurants like Sazon open amid the economic and health crisis.

“We are a big part of this community. Our culture is a huge part of this city. There are so many Latino restaurants that no one knows about, this is sad because if more people knew about these restaurants, they can learn about different Latino cultures,” she said.

So far, there hasn’t been enough help from the government that exclusively supports Latinos with their businesses.

Until that time comes, places like Sazon need more loyal customers. Check out its website for a menu, call for take out or delivery, and more information.

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