There is no denying the restaurant industry has been hard hit during the pandemic. One Jersey City eatery saw their neighbors step in when they were dealt with another blow. Würstbar had a staff member exposed to the virus and rather than running risk of spreading the disease, the management decided the best course of action was to shut down—at least temporarily. But their neighbors at Virile Barber Shop swooped in to help after seeing their post about the temporary close.
They posted on their Instagram page “No, we are not randomly closed for ‘renovations!’ We unfortunately, had an exposure to COVID-19 at Würstbar. Würstbar is a small team run by an extremely hardworking and loyal staff. Running the restaurant with only non-exposed employees isn’t an option for us at the moment. We decided as a team that we would close until every employee exposed or not has been tested and can return to work confident in their safety, and equally as important, our guests’ safety. Thank you to @hdsid_jc and Prestige Health Mobile for getting the entire staff tested so quickly. We look forward to serving you soon.”
Word of Würstbar’s crew quarantine quickly made the rounds of the tight-knit community and in less than 24 hours, workers from Virile Barber Shop just up the street stepped up, offering to lend a hand by taking shifts to keep Würstbar open for business until the impacted staff members could all be tested and cleared.
“The weather is too nice out to let our neighbors at Würstbar stay closed!” Virile Barber Shop owner Andre Fersa posted. “I’ve taken over the bar and am selling PRETZELS, beer, wine and cider for outdoor seating only. Come on by and support this great staff.”
As expected, the grateful Würstbar staff was soon singing the praises of the generous community volunteers who’d pitched in to keep their doors open. “A big thank you to the crew at @virile for taking over Würstbar yesterday, that was a blast! We love this community and couldn’t ask for better neighbors. Let’s not forget barbershops and salons were hit just as hard as restaurants during the shutdown. With so many people home from the office and big events not happening it’s easy to skip a cut here and there. If you have the means, please get that extra cut and look your best for your Zoom call or socially distanced gathering.”
Fersa and his friend, Joe Mercurio, got a quick crash course and soon enough Wurstbar was open for business. There were no tables inside, no cocktails, and their typically large menu of brats, sausages, hot dogs and poutine was pared down to just hot pretzels. But from noon until around 6 p.m. on Saturday, Fersa and Mercurio ran the show with Kahn supervising. Neighborhood locals got word that Virile was taking over Wurstbar for the day and came out to support the business, with outdoor tables packed throughout the day. The Kitchen Step, another Jersey Avenue restaurant, offered to send help if they needed it and bought a bunch of hot pretzels to feed their staff.
Kahn has tried to be optimistic as possible throughout the pandemic, but admits the positive COVID-19 test knocked him down. The bar was closed from Nov. 8 until Nov. 12, until all the employees tested negative. But Fersa stepping up to help out, even for just one day, rejuvenated him. “I didn’t feel that feeling of defeat anymore. I felt like, ‘I’ve got this.’ It kind of revived me, like we’ll get through this closure. I felt like I needed that,” Kahn said. “Andre stepping in and helping me out really just brought me back.”