Neighbors pitch in to help Harriet Brasserie

Chef Fernando Silva of The Harriet Brasserie
Chef Fernando Silva of The Harriet Brasserie said he is overwhelmed by the support of neighbors and regulars seeking to help the restaurant. File photo

Chef Fernando Silva is used to tough winters at his Linden Hills restaurant The Harriet Brasserie, but he knows this year will be more challenging than ever.

The restaurant won’t be facing that challenge alone. In mid-October, a neighbor launched a GoFundMe campaign seeking to raise $150,000 to help The Harriet Brasserie get by, and more than 120 people have already contributed more than $14,000.

“People keep surprising us with their overwhelming support,” Silva said.

The Brazilian chef opened the brasserie in 2011 with his wife, Kalinka, and has built it into a comfortable and popular neighborhood joint. He’s also very honest with friends and customers about how business is going, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, business has been tough.

During the summer, the restaurant was doing well with what it could do — a busy patio service and takeout options — but when the cold hit in early October, business plummeted by about 75%, Silva said. The Small Business Administration loan he got in May is long used up, with no additional relief packages in sight. Meanwhile, the fixed costs of operating a restaurant remain the same. On Oct. 21, being his usually transparent self, Silva explained the situation to some neighbors and regulars. He woke up the next day to find those neighbors had created a GoFundMe campaign to help the restaurant.

At first, he was reluctant to accept the help and a bit overwhelmed.

“My story is exactly the same of many other people,” Silva said. “It’s hard to know how or when or if you could ask for help.”

Since the campaign launched, he’s received countless messages from customers and colleagues in the industry. The support, he said, is well beyond financial and has inspired the staff to keep going.

But the financial piece is important. Each winter, Silva said the restaurant loses about $100,000 due to general decline in business. But that’s usually offset by a much more bountiful summer that allows the restaurant to have a profitable year. But because of the pandemic-induced decline in business and temporary restaurant closure from the stay-at-home order, that cushion doesn’t exist this year.

Still, Silva doesn’t intend to stop. He’s a cook and he wants to cook and create a place where people can gather for a good meal. With the GoFundMe campaign, it’s clear that many neighbors agree and their support might let the brasserie carry on.

“I think people need restaurants to have meetings and celebrate life and you can’t quantify that,” Silva said.

The Harriet Brasserie
2724 W. 43rd St.