By Len La Rocca
What was once typical, everyday life has become a daydream for students longing to return to the College. But when social distancing ends, in-person classes resume and students flock back to campus, a restaurant that once served the campus community will be gone — a reminder of COVID-19’s life-altering impacts.
On April 7, Piccolo Pronto, Campus Town’s beloved pizza spot, announced on Instagram that it would be closing after five years of serving the community.
“The landlord created significant problems for Piccolo Pronto and the coronavirus pandemic also caused unprecedented, adverse conditions beyond our control,” read the statement.
Piccolo Pronto may not be the only campus business that will fall victim to the economic consequences of COVID-19. Campus Town’s landlord company, The PRC Group, continues to expect rent payments — even from businesses that rely on students.
Greg Lentine, the vice president of the PRC Group, explained that collecting rent is vital to facility upkeep for Campus Town retailers and residents.
“We have internet in our buildings, we have cable and we have cleaning crews. We’re doing extra cleaning because of the pandemic,” Lentine said. “All of the above items must be paid and are required to be paid by the landlord, but the only way we can pay those bills is if we get rent.”
According to Lentine, Piccolo Pronto’s owner, Fahmi Elabed, was not complying with safety regulations. Elabed is also the owner of Piccolo Trattoria, which is still maintaining operations. He denied The Signal’s request for comment.
“He ripped everything out of the store…everything is gone,” Lentine said. “We’re taking actions to protect the building because when he removed the fire protection that was a big thing. Our own security building had to come back and put that protection back into the building.”
Rachel Cherry is a junior psychology major who has worked at Piccolo Pronto for two years. Cherry was not informed of the closing by any of her bosses, but rather through a customer rewards push notification sent to her father that mentioned the closure.
“There wasn’t a mass email. There was no text,” Cherry said. “But I was not surprised that I was not told just based on how things were run in the past.”
Loyal customers like LaMont Rouse, the Assistant Director of Assessment at the College, will miss Piccolo Pronto and the fond memories he made there.
“COVID-19 is altering our landscape in small and large ways,” Rouse said. “And this is yet another example of that.”
Although many businesses are struggling to survive this pandemic, Lentine insists that Campus Town will have no issue filling the vacancy left by Piccolo Pronto.
“I got four calls from local Italian restaurants this week saying if Piccolo closes, they want to come in,” Lentine said.
The future is up in the air, but it is certain that the impacts of social distancing will leave long term effects on the campus community.
“The management, especially (co-owner) Amali, and staff were always wonderful. I wish them well,” Rouse said. “But I know this is business, and in the end, if there are no students, there are no profits.”