Coronavirus in Argentina: the barbecue and the Buenos Aires grills, victims of the pandemic

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By Almudena Calatrava, for the agency AP.-

The chorizos are browned in the heat of the coals on the large grill that on any given day would be full of cuts of meat, but now it is at half capacity. Every so often, the barbecue grill washes his hands and apply alcohol gel in a sink installed a few meters away. The bustle that was heard in the grill restaurants of the Argentine capital gave way to absolute tranquility in dark establishments, where the chairs are stacked on the tables and the waiters do not walk fast to attend to the diners.

Instead, they are moving bags with customer orders that refuse to give up a juicy steak, even in times of physical isolation from the new coronavirus. “The only way out is to roll up your sleeves. This situation is going to come out with delivery why people want to eat rich anywhere, ” he said days ago to The Associated Press, Liber Acuña, one of the owners of “Poor Luis”, a traditional porteña grill that, like so many others, has suffered the effects of the quarantine in force for over a month.

The grill works in low light to avoid bulging the beads. (Photo: AP / Victor R. Caivano)

Before the Alberto Fernández government ordered isolation on March 20 to stop the pandemic from spreading, this bowling alley attended to about 200 covers on any given night of the week. Now, their owners prepare around 15 orders a day and they will also start to open on Sunday to curb losses. “Many people do not have a grill in their homes. Baked meat is completely different from grilled meat and the Argentine is carnivorous and likes roasting,” said Acuña, who shares the business with other family members.

The months have been absolutely empty for more than a month. (Photo: AP / Victor R. Caivano)
The months have been absolutely empty for more than a month. (Photo: AP / Victor R. Caivano)

For about 12 days, when he implemented the delivery system, the young man has been determined to go ahead with the business and not leaving your employees on the street in the midst of the paralysis that affects businesses in this sector. This and other restaurants consulted by AP They reinvented themselves by offering grills at home for those who are now forced to cook other cuts of meat in the oven or in the casserole at home, and from time to time, They want to savor the traditional roast again.

The owners of these establishments say they feel “very strange” without the smell of ribs or grilled gizzards permeating the atmosphere, the noise of diners and the music playing in the background. “It is sad not to see the clients. I even miss their bad jokes or the glasses that break,” Acuña lamented. Her sister Eliana, in charge of taking care of WhatsApp requests, stated that a few days before the quarantine took effect, the place began to empty. “It was distressing, we never saw it like that. Neither in 2001, nor with the looting ‘‘, Held.

The workers of a Buenosairean restaurant and the turned chairs. (Photo: AP / Victor R. Caivano)
The workers of a Buenosairean restaurant and the turned chairs. (Photo: AP / Victor R. Caivano)

The young woman reported that when door-to-door orders began to work, her regular customers felt that they had “been happy with the quarantine.” “Many people ask me to surprise family members on their birthdays … to cheer them up a little,” he said. Other grills are analyzing how to make the move. “Starting in May, I estimate that we will be open as delivery. We are seeing how we reinvent ourselves,” said Gastón Riveira, owner of La Cabrera. The businessman plans to install the system in one of his stores to see if it works. “This is a disaster, we are all in the same situation”he lamented.

Affected by the impossibility of going to restaurants, the meat consumption habits of Argentines also began to change: not everyone has a grill, and even those who do not always feel like setting fire to the loneliness of isolation. According to references in the meat sector, “cuts” for roast meat that used to be demanded by grills and other gastronomic establishments are now being sold and now those of “pulp, boneless” are best-selling like the goldfish, buttock or loin, that can be baked and casseroled at home.

Grills try to survive on delivery orders. (Photo: AP / Victor R. Caivano)
Grills try to survive on delivery orders. (Photo: AP / Victor R. Caivano)

Oscar Subarroca, president of the Liniers Market told the news agency that there was “a quite important change in the consumption habit” since “on the weekend the cuts for the grill were not enough and now they are left over in the butchers.” Subarroca said that very recently a small “change in trend is observed because some restaurants are starting to see delivery.”

In the Mataderos neighborhood of Buenos Aires, some butchers complained that sales collapsed by as much as 70% in the past month. “We have (as clients) restaurants, hotels, which unfortunately are not working. We are half complicated to pay the salaries to the employees,” said Diego Salvo, who is in charge of a butcher shop. Eliana Acuña believes that home orders they are here to stay in restaurants because the fear of contagion will prevail until a vaccine is discovered: “At least with this I feel that we can reach the goal. It is not making a profit; it is staying, surviving.”

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