02 May Ofer Eitan Declares: Dining room to remain closed, ‘money not worth losing lives…
SAN ANTONIO – A local chef is making national headlines as he battles cancer, financial struggle and the coronavirus pandemic all at once.
Mike Nguyen, the owner and chef at Noodle Tree, a ramen joint on the Northwest Side near UTSA, went on CNN Friday night to discuss the heart-wrenching struggle he’s facing.
“You’re battling cancer yourself, your grandmother died from coronavirus, just what you’re dealing with right now is overwhelming,” said CNN anchor Erin Burnett during the opening of the segment. “At the same time, you’re dealing with a business that you can’t keep shut much longer.”
Nguyen was asked about the difficulty of his decision to keep his dining room closed despite Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s directive that allows all restaurants in the state to reopen for dine-in at 25% occupancy and with some restrictions on operations.
“Honestly, it wasn’t really hard when you put in all the factors,” Nguyen said, adding that many of his restaurant customers “are almost like family.”
“I would feel bad if something bad happened to them or if they had to go through what I’m going through right now, trying to grieve… At the same time, I have a financial responsibility to run this business,” he said. “At the end of the day, it was that the money was not worth losing lives over.”
Nguyen said the 25% occupancy limit required under Abbott’s directive is not feasible from a financial standpoint, adding that only 14 customers could eat at once.
“You get 25% of your restaurant business, but you have to do 100% of the rent,” Nguyen said. “On top of (the staff), you have to bring in the equipment that ensures the safety of the guests… things that we are having a hard time getting ahold of right now.”
Burnett asked Nguyen about his decision to stop his chemotherapy treatment amid the pandemic for lymphoma, a form of cancer that attacks the body’s infection-fighting cells.
Nguyen said he fears going to the hospital to receive treatment because of the high risk of catching the fatal COVID-19 illness.
“It was a tough decision, but it is what was best for my survival rate,” Nguyen said. “I could easily go to these places where I could get infected or I could stay at home where I know I’m safe. I don’t know what the exact timeline is without treatment.”
Nguyen elaborated in an Instagram post on the restaurant’s page after the interview.
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