Neighborhood Eats: Brooklyn eatery re-opens after owner recovers from coronavirus

WILLIAMSBURG, New York (WABC) -- So many restaurants are struggling right now, so imagine you've just expanded to a larger space when the coronavirus hits -- affecting not only your business but your health.

That's what happened to Sibte Hassan, owner and chef of BK Jani in Brooklyn.

"I've had all the great burgers New York has to offer, and my quest was to offer a halal burger joint," Hassan said.

The name means "Brooklyn Sweetheart" in Urdu, the official national language of Pakistan, and Hassan's burgers have a kick from chutney and other Pakistani street food.

The restaurant's burgers were so popular, Hassan outgrew his original Bushwick spot and moved to a larger space in Williamsburg on March 3.

Poor timing, because the city banned dining at restaurants just days later, and then Hassan caught the coronavirus himself.

"They immediately admitted me to the hospital," he said. "Yep, 'You have COVID-19.' It was so severe."

Hassan can laugh about it now but says he spent 12 rough days in the hospital.

"The first few days when I was going through this, I had a feeling it's time to wrap up," he said. "I was mentally prepared to not survive."

While hospitalized, he dreamed of travel and his restaurant. He often dreamed, "I'm going to expand the menu if I survive."

Now fully recovered, Hassan is back in his restaurant cooking away and giving back.

He added vegetarian options to his menu and is also providing food through Meals4Heroes, sometimes for the very nurses who cared for him.

"They do so much, but they're not celebrated enough," he said. "They give you so much comfort. Who's giving them comfort?"

He hopes his food does just that.

"The reason to live on is to help people in every possible way," he said.

BK Jani is open daily from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.. and Hassan can't wait to have people back inside his new location, with room for social distancing.

CLICK HERE for more on BK Jani.

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