How A Hartford Restaurant Survives Opening During The Pandemic

Abigail Murillo, Staff Writer

Opening a business at any time is no simple feat, but during a pandemic? Well for Cesar Martin Pardo Figueroa and Christian Narro it is challenge they were willing to accept.

The Flaming Llama, a local restaurant in South Hartford, opened in late October despite the ongoing coronaviruspandemic. Co-owner Figueroa shares the restaurant was a long time coming and that the duo worked hard to get to where they are now.  

“Christian Narro, the other co-owner, and I have known each other for eight years and I know his family and he knows my family,” he said. “Everything came because we always go to eat at Peruvian restaurants around Hartford and we always wanted to have our own restaurants.”

Both men have experience in the restaurant business, from waiters to delivery man and working in the kitchen with each other.

“Flaming Llama is different from other Peruvian restaurants because we want to incorporate a lot of variety in our menu than others,” Figueroa said. “We are a Peruvian restaurant, but we want to be one that includes foods from other countries as well.”

The co-owner mentioned that they wanted to be different from other restaurants in Hartford and have a more diverse menu from different cultures. Using safety precautions, the restaurants has two chefs from Miami that have experience in popular restaurants, like Pisco, Nasca and Ceviche 105.

“My expectations for this restaurant is getting a lot of new people coming in. Especially the younger Peruvians and Americans to see how we can mix and have a diverse menu,” Figueroa stated.

But with the pandemic, the restaurant still faces its challenges. One of which being their hiring process, as it was hard to find workers during this time, but it didn’t stop them from opening. 

“We currently have between 10 to 15 employees working right now,” Figueroa noted. “We have met our original expectations. It has only been two weeks since our opening. But even with the pandemic and everything, we are selling a good amount of food without any problems so far.” 

According to the Center for Disease Control Prevention, in order to maintain healthy operations for restaurants and bars, there should be regulatory awareness, staggered or rotated shifts/sittings with a roster of trained back-up staff  in case of emergencies. Restaurants should have staff self-report if they are experiencing any symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19.

Along with this, the restaurant has had to adjust to the other restrictions of coronavirus with Connecticut. As of Nov. 6, Governor Ned Lamont has ordered for Phase 2.1 rules to be effective throughout the state, which permits restaurants to 50 percent capacity indoors, six feet spacing and/or non-porous barriers and a maximum of eight people per table. Restaurants are will be required to close by 10 p.m. as well.

Figueroa emphasized that despite the additional difficulty of the pandemic, he and Narro still wanted to open during the pandemic because there was and continues to be the want for a normal, safe environment for the public to attend. They made sure that their restaurant had space in order to respect the state’s regulations on social distancing, while still giving good customer service.  

“As a local restaurant, it is one of our priorities to respect the six feet apart guidelines. In every one of our sections we have hand sanitizing stations to keep our employees safe, we have a list of all of our workers and take their temperatures before they go into work and sometimes on their way out, just in case. As a precaution, we tell them to have their masks and gloves on at all times when working,” he explained.

While The Flaming Llama continues to adjust to the pandemic, Figueroa and Narro remain confident that they will dish out good eats while serving up a safe space for their customers.