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Humboldt Steel Corporation restaurant goes out of business in Portsmouth due to COVID-19

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Posted at 3:22 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 17:48:25-05

PORTSMOUTH, Va.— A Portsmouth pizzeria and bar is shutting down, and its owner says COVID-19 restrictions are to blame.

Humboldt Steel Corporation announced it will serve the community for the last time on Friday.

Owner Christopher Bowman is a staunch anti-masker and says COVID-19 restrictions led to the demise of his business.

“We could stay open longer, but I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel,” Bowman said.

After six years of serving up drinks and pizza in the historic Olde Towne District of Portsmouth, the High Street restaurant is shutting down.

Connie Tuck has been eating at the restaurant for five years, and came in for a meal Wednesday after hearing about the closure.

“I’m heartbroken because I love this place. As far as I know, they have the best stromboli,” Tuck said.

Bowman says the business took a big hit after being shut down for three months at the beginning of the pandemic for outdoor seating violations. He says he had trouble keeping to-go only customers from sitting outside on the patio.

He says the biggest loss came from losing the groups of military and shipyard workers that used to gather at the restaurant on lunch breaks.

“This is more of a sit-down restaurant,” Bowman said. “As a general rule, if [customers] are going to do take-out, they go to a much faster, cheaper place.”

The restaurant is down to just four tables in the main eating area, and losing bar seating to the governor’s mandated restriction significantly reduced the restaurant’s capacity.

While the restaurant has plenty of outdoor seating at its disposal, Bowman said customers aren’t taking advantage of it now that it’s winter, and it’s too late to come back from months of being in a financial hole.

“By the time winter is over and people are willing to sit outside again, we’ll be so far in debt that it would probably take us 2 to 3 years to recover from that debt,” Bowman said.

The community as well as staff found out about the closure Monday. Bowman says he’s giving his 12 employees the opportunity to do retail work at the three tattoo shops he owns.

“I may be able to convert them over into sterilization technicians. If we have to do some training in order to get them up to speed for other jobs, I’ll do so,” he said.

Humboldt Steel Corporation is inviting customers to say goodbye one last time by Friday, but some hope to say see you later.

It’ll be a dream deferred for now. There’s some interest from buyers to take over the business, but Bowman is ready for the last call.

He says the business will stay open on Friday until 5 p.m. unless business is busy.

He plans on donating any leftover food to an organization that feeds people in need.