As pandemic dining restrictions loosen to allow 25% capacity indoors, El Born restaurant owner Elena Manich is reflecting on the impact of the past year while looking ahead. 

El Born, a Barcelona-inspired tapas restaurant, has been at 651 Manhattan Avenue since early 2014, when Manich opened the eatery alongside chef Diego Gonzalez. In the time since, El Born has become popular in Greenpoint for its offering of classic tapas and $30 weekend brunch. These days, Manich admits that business has been rough, particularly as they wait for a response on a second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and experience a lower volume of customers over the winter months.

“We are down to 45% of what we used to make, but a lot of the expenses stay the same, so it’s losing money month after month,” Manich said.

With the long road to financial recovery ahead, Manich and the El Born team were excited to return to indoor dining on February 12th. She’s also cautious, acknowledging that the restaurant has a lot of losses on its back. To prepare, the restaurant was outfitted with more plastic dividers between spaced tables and a HEPA filter. Doors to both indoor and patio seating will remain open to ensure air flow.

Manich is happy to report that the first weekend of indoor dining, aided by Valentine’s Day, exceeded her expectations.

“People were ready for it!” Manich remarked. “Valentine’s Day on Sunday made such a difference for us in sales. I really hope it stays the same this week. It made me see the light at the end of the tunnel; although after everything we’ve been through. I know that uncertainty is a constant now, so better to not say victory yet.”

In the same vein, Manich admits that the biggest lesson she’s learned over the past eleven months has been the fragility of business and how quickly things can change.

“One day you are riding the wave … and the next morning your business is shut down and you are supposed to survive and pay your employees by doing deliveries when that has never been the strong arm of your business,” she lamented.

On the flip side, Manich expresses pride in her staff and their adaptability, acknowledging the cyclical nature of the relationship and how “if you deliver to them and treat them right, like family, they will give it back to you.”

Those eager to dine at El Born can enjoy the restaurant’s famous deals, which they’ve recently restarted, including 50% off bottles of wine on Mondays, $15 unlimited portions of select tapas on Tapas Tuesdays, Paella Night on Wednesdays — offering paella for one and a glass of wine, sangria, or beer for $19; paella for two and a bottle of wine, sangria, or a beer pitcher for $49; or paella for four and a bottle of wine, sangria, or a beer pitcher for $98 — buy one, get one free gin and tonics on Thursdays, daily happy hours (from 4 to 6 pm Monday through Friday and 4 to 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays), and a $30, 90-minute bottomless brunch on the weekends. 

For anyone still weary about dining indoors, there are other ways to support El Born. The restaurant sells gift cards and recently launched a Spanish grocery store, El Rebost de El Born. Customers can browse the selection of seafood tins, charcuterie, chips, wine, beer, and more in store or purchase online. In terms of ordering out, El Born has also started to partner with DeliverZero, a company that provides reusable containers for delivery.

“Anything helps!” Manich said.

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