Celebrity chef José Andrés, who is known for his philanthropic work providing meals to communities in the wake of natural disasters, said Sunday he is closing his D.C. restaurants and urged others to do the same as the coronavirus outbreak spreads.
“We are doing this for the right reasons. We need to take care of our employees, we need to take care of our guests for their safety, more importantly we need to take care of every one of you,” Andrés said in a video posted to Twitter. “We cannot just keep going like this is not gonna happen to us.”
People of America...Important News: All my restaurants in DC area are closed until further notice. Here at @ThinkFoodGroup safety of employees & guests is too priority. Some restaurants will transform into Community Kitchens to offer to-go lunches for those who need a meal. (1/4) pic.twitter.com/3HTyT607ZI— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) March 15, 2020
Andrés’s restaurants will close starting Sunday night.
He said the move is necessary in order to mitigate the global coronavirus pandemic, which is rapidly spreading across the U.S.
“We need to be joining the NBA, need to be joining closings of other venues that are doing the right call ahead of everybody. We cannot stay much longer with restaurants open or we will only be part of the problem when we need to be part of the solution,” Andrés said.
Andrés, who founded the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, which provides meals to areas hit by natural disasters, said several of his D.C. restaurants will be converted into community kitchens to provide basic needs s amid the pandemic.
The community kitchens will have take-out windows for people to pick up food, he said.
“[W]e always said we want to change the world through the power of food. I do believe that phrase more than ever today has a big meaning.”
He said closing “is the best thing to do to make sure this virus can go away sooner rather than later.”
Andrés also said that all of his employees will be paid for the next two weeks, adding that closures will be hard on small businesses.
“I've been here 26 years moving this company forward and plan to be here 25 more years ahead, and I know I will only be able to do this with the men and women next to me,” he said. “We’re going to be finding every way to be next to them to make sure that together we go through this complicated time.”
Sixteen cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Washington, D.C. as of Saturday night, according to health officials.