To our customers, friends and neighbors:
With the rapid escalation of the threat from the Corona Virus pandemic here locally, nationally and globally, we extend our wishes to each of you and your loved ones to remain safe and healthy. The situation clearly is changing rapidly and all of us are having to make plans on how to best cope with and protect the health of our families and our communities against a backdrop of dizzying uncertainty. In this context, we - as a business, as members of a community and as members of a family - have spent considerable time weighing various options of how could continue to serve the community while responding prudently to the changing nature of threats to the public health and economic realities.
Our hearts and inner voices have urged us to come up with a plan for scaled back operations that would allow us to continue to serve our friends and neighbors in Georgetown. That impulse is the same one that led us to create and sustain Via Umbria for two decades - a belief in the importance of community and the connections that tie each of us to the other. How insidious that this virus exploits those very connections for its own ends, sickening us and in some cases killing us for maintaining those very bonds that give us strength and meaning. Social distancing, a practice we must exercise and even embrace to slow the spread of this disease is completely antithetical to the values we cherish. And how painful it is to watch our friends and colleagues in Italy, a culture built around and nourished and sustained by social connectedness, as they have had to isolate themselves from one another in order to simply slow the virus’ fevered ascendency. But even in enforced isolation, Italians have found some small ways to remain connected, taking to their balconies and joining together in song. As a good friend observed - “it melts your heart.” Such is the power, the hunger, the need to be connected and part of a community and our goal was and is to find a way to continue to sustain community when our survival instinct (and the government) tells us we must disengage.
In the end, however, we simply could not find a way for us to remain open and to serve the community that we love, at least in the short term. Even as we write, the Mayor has shut down restaurants across the District, and other restrictions on movement are sure to follow. While we could perhaps find a way to remain open for a few days here or there on a limited basis, such a course would mean subjecting our staff to the ongoing risk of infection without even the guarantee of us being able to make payroll. And given that a number of our employees - particularly those that would staff continued operations - are family, we, as a family, decided that the better course of action would be to self quarantine until the threat subsides, and make plans to reopen and serve the public at some point in the future.
In this regard, with heavy heart we announce that we will be suspending operations at 3pm on Friday, March 20. We will be closed today and Wednesday, March 18 but intend to re-open for business Thursday and Friday from 11am to 3pm in order to sell existing inventory which includes our outstanding selection of meats and cheeses, imported Italian wines, and a wide variety of staples, ingredients, necessities and luxuries. If you are well and are comfortable stopping in we would love to have you help us close out our inventory of perishable goods before we close our doors and to say not “farewell" but "a presto."
Pursuant to the Mayor’s emergency decree, our cafe will remain closed but we may offer a limited menu of prepared grab-and-go items for sale on Thursday and Friday. Check our website for further information.
This pandemic, even in its early stages when it has not yet truly arrived in full force, has already disrupted our normal way of life and forced us to make many difficult choices. No doubt there will be more distress and dislocation ahead, but despite the fear and uncertainty that it has unleashed, let’s all do our part to count our blessings and to love and care for one another. We are sad to be stepping away from this lovely community that has given us such joy and happiness to serve, even if that separation is only temporary. And we look forward to the day when we can reopen our doors and welcome you back to Via Umbria. We devoutly hope that day is not in the too distant future. In the meantime, let’s all try to follow the inspirational example that our brothers and sisters in Italy, singing to and with one another from their balconies have provided us. To find a way to create community with one another even in our isolation. Because that is who we are and what makes our lives meaningful. And not even a devastating pandemic can take that away from us.
With every good wish for the continued good health and safety for you and your loved ones
Bill and Suzy
and the Via Umbria family