Coronavirus News: Brooklyn restaurant turns into soup kitchen to feed laid off workers

BROOKLYN, New York City (WABC) -- The COVID-19 pandemic changed the lives of many in New York City overnight, closing down restaurants and laying off thousands of workers.

At the award-winning Olmsted Restaurant in Prospect Park, owners Max Katzenberg and Greg Baxtrom are continuing to cook meals as a soup kitchen.

Katzenberg and Baxtrom pivoted from running a restaurant to cooking and providing for their brothers and sisters who were laid off due to the novel coronavirus.

"It's something our workforce needs after 250,000 were laid off overnight with a minimum unemployment benefit, our people need food," Katzenberg said.

Many restaurant workers survive on tips; others barely make above minimum wage.

The owners themselves had to let go of at least 60 of their people.

On the first night of the soup kitchen, nearly 200 people showed up.

"The irony is if it's successful just how terrible that is, having to cook for all the people who normally cook for you it's sad," Katzenberg said.

The soup kitchen got kick-started by the Lee Initiative, a restaurant-worker relief program.

The folks at Olmsted hope donations can keep the soup kitchen going as long as there's a need.

"When we were packing it away and saw how many meals we made, it was special; it was a nice feeling," Baxtrom said.

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