CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — We often hear how tough it can be to open a restaurant. There are many moving parts that make someone’s lifelong dream also one of the hardest tasks they’ll ever face.
Now, imagine opening a restaurant in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. That is what Aka Sushi in Downtown Corpus Christi will be attempting to do, and it’s a decision that has weighed on their minds for some time. “Every other night we were staying awake thinking about these issues,” said opening coordinator Sean Kim. “Is the governor going to shut us down? Are we going to be able to open our doors tomorrow?”
Those are all valid concerns, especially as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Nueces county. Aka Sushi has been open in the Coastal Bend for close to two decades, and was founded by James Kim.
It closed its doors for eight months for remodeling, well before the crisis hit Corpus Christi, with no clue what was on the horizon. Now, it looks to open its doors again, and get the staff’s livelihoods back on track. “It’s scary, it is frightening,” Sean Kim said. “It’s honestly life or death.” Chefs are hard at work honing their craft in Aka’s new kitchens, preparing sushi rolls for hungry customers who are ready to experience dining out again at their favorite restaurant.
The reopening is a big moment for the Kim family, but they are not the only ones. For some, the reopening of Aka Sushi has provided an avenue of getting back to work. Gerardo Obregon is one of the restaurant’s new servers. He lost his job when the pandemic first struck home, but Aka Sushi has gotten him back to work.
“It’s awesome,” Obregon said with a smile. “When you are looking for a job and suddenly find one, they open doors for you and they treat you like family.” Having been on the other side of things, he never wants to relive that situation again. “I am grateful for the opportunity,” he said. “Because it is scary.”
The path back to stability for the restaurant, like many others in the area, will not be easy. There is still a 50-percent capacity limit on all restaurants in the state of Texas. “We have been in the Coastal Bend for 20 years,” Kim said. “We are serving the people that we love, serving the food that we love but without you, we just simply can’t make it happen.” The restaurant’s official grand re-opening is scheduled for July 24.
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