Despite the struggles many restaurants have faced during the pandemic, the owners of Hartford’s Burke’s Oasis were not deterred from opening their doors. On the contrary, the owners there say it was the pandemic that provided the inspiration.
With an official ribbon cutting at its Maple Avenue location, Burke’s Oasis, Carribean and West Indian restaurant is officially open and it will be serving more than just food.
“We can provide employment. We can put some money into the Hartford economy. And we can also help those who are at risk,” said co-owner, Dexter Burke.
Burke, who is the archbishop at Hartford’s Walk In The Light Church of God, says the vision for the new restaurant came while witnessing the challenges created by the pandemic. He and his wife, Amanda have seen the need directly in their community.
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“It’s unprecedented right now, the number of people who are going without food,” said Amanda Burke.
Addressing these issues, the Burkes say their new restaurant will not only sell food but occasionally give it away to those in need. Free food however, will be given with a healthy side dish of life advice.
“We’re going to ask the questions are you working? Are you trying to get work?, said Dexter Burke. He says they will follow up these conversations to see if people need resources to find help.
As the Burke’s explain, this venture is an investment in Hartford.
“One of the things that has been missing because of COVID-19 is that sense of community,” said Amanda Burke. “That sense of collectiveness.”
To create that collectiveness, the Burkes are hoping to eventually use the restaurant’s back room for students to gather after school.
“When they come in they have to do their homework. Stay off the streets. Stay out of gangs. Stay out of drugs, and you’ll have a free meal,” explained Dexter Burke.
To sustain their goal of feeding those in need, the Burkes say they are hoping to partner with some nearby shelters. In the meantime they say much of this is being supported by partnerships within the community.