Popular restaurateur in Robbinsdale on struggles during pandemic: 'It’s like playing the Hunger Games'

Nonna Rosa's is switching owners in Robbinsdale as the people who have run the restaurant for a decade struggle during the pandemic. (FOX 9)

A popular dining spot in Robbinsdale is changing ownership as the business faces financial hardships in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tina Suglia, the owner of Nonna Rosa’s, describes it as bittersweet as she hands over Nonna Rosa’s, the authentic Italian family restaurant she built with her husband over the last decade, to new ownership.

The pandemic and its crushing impact on the hospitality industry was just too much to navigate.

"After doing it for ten years, I hate to say it, we’re kind of stuck in our ways," explained Suglia. "And it’s been a really tough thing to really keep shifting, shifting, shifting."

Suglia reports the restaurant’s numbers were ugly, with year-to-year losses of $130,000 in sales since the initial March COVID shutdown and their lease in downtown Robbinsdale was up.

Tina Suglia says things have been tough since March, with the shutdown and capacity restrictions since reopening. (FOX 9)

But the Suglias refused to allow their baby to go the way of so many other local restaurants across the metro. In the end, they found a new, local owner for Nonna Rosa’s.

"This is a challenging time, but there’s been challenging times in the companies I have worked with before," added new owner Jesse Pfliger. "It’s a hard-working industry. I think we’re going to come out of this and change and evolve. We already have."

Pfliger, a veteran of the industry, sees only opportunity on the horizon despite the current realities. A recent Hospitality Minnesota survey of restaurant and food service operators found nearly 52 percent of them projected they’d be insolvent within the next four to six months. That as a 50-percent cap on indoor dining remains in effect and the traditional end of the outdoor food and drink season in Minnesota is moving in.

One thing this restaurant absolutely has going for it is a popular outdoor patio. The new owner insists he will do everything he can to keep this space open for skittish diners.

"If somebody wants to dine outside, we’re going to accommodate them with whatever someone is most comfortable with," said Pfliger.

As for Suglia, her heart will always remain here on Broadway and with all the other restaurant owners trying to make it work in the time of COVID.

"It’s horrible," said Suglia. "It’s like playing the Hunger Games with our local businesses. Who is going to survive at the end? Those who survive are forever changed."