At Plaza Garibaldi in South Philly, an owner refuses to let his dream die
He’s also organizing a group of Latino-owned restaurants to make their voices heard beyond their neighborhood.
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Raul Castro’s dream was to open a restaurant, where people could taste authentic Mexican cuisine. But ever since the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Philadelphia, his dream is turning into a nightmare.
Amid the pandemic, Castro told Al Dia News that he never thought his restaurant would take a turn for the worst.
“This is a terrible time for small business, especially for Latinos. If the city continues to shut indoor dining down, we might only stay open for three months,” Castro said.
Right now, Philadelphia’s ban on indoor dining is in place until Jan. 15.
Castro owns Plaza Garibaldi, a Mexican restaurant located in South Philadelphia, near the Italian Market. He founded it in September of 2002.
“There are many Mexican restaurants in South Philly, but what makes our restaurant special is that we have been around for so long. I have been here since the Italian Market was empty. I have seen restaurants open and then close suddenly. I don’t want that to happen to me,” he said.
In the summer, outdoor dining was feasible and is still implemented at Plaza Garibaldi, but in the fall and winter, Castro expressed how the weather dramatically changes business.
“I made a deck outside and I bought some heaters, but that doesn’t really do anything. Once the weather changes and gets colder, no one is going to eat outside,” he said.
Plaza Garibaldi was the recipient of an SBA loan to cover payroll, but the money ran out quickly and more support is needed.
In response, he and a number of other Latino restaurant owners want to establish a group where they can work together and advocate against the injustices that Latino restaurant owners are going through amid the pandemic.
“We need representation. Having a platform would be the first step in having our voices heard, and that is what this organization is all about. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Mexican restaurants, but Latino restaurants as a whole,” Castro said.
They have yet to settle on a name.
Another issue Castro spoke of revolved around how delivery services such as GrubHub and DoorDash were profiting from Latino dishes such as Tacos and Huevos Rancheros without respecting their culture.
“They’re pretty much Americanizing these Latino dishes, they’re taking our money and making a profit from our dishes, they don’t lose anything if my business closes, but I lose a lot,” Castro said. “We also have to pay fees, which takes a lot of money from my own restaurant bills.”
He isn’t the only one who feels this way.
In addition to starting an organization with his fellow owners, Castro has also stayed determined to have representatives notice the Latino community.
“I feel like we are invisible...there are many Latinos in South Philly and we deserve to be seen,” Castro said.
His goal is to raise awareness for Latino-owned businesses so that first-generation children can have more opportunities.
“I just think that we need people to help represent the barrio, the Mexican community is growing which means more businesses will be opening, the government has to recognize that, we’re doing this for future generations” he explained.
From Passyunk Ave in South Philly to Christian St., there are at least 20 Latino-owned small businesses that are located in the area that often goes unheard.
Plaza Garibaldi thrives on loyal customers, please support their restaurant that’s in the heart of South Philly on 10th and Washington Ave. Check out their menu online.
This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting as brokeinphilly.org.