SOCASTEE, SC (WBTW) – For the first time in a month, the Veterans Cafe and Grille is serving hot meals.
Owner Lou Mascherino temporarily closed the restaurant in December while he had COVID-19.
“Every night I would sleep out on my recliner in my back room,” Mascherino said. “I was afraid to go to bed.”
Mascherino developed pneumonia and was hospitalized for low oxygen levels. He was unable to see his wife and family for six days.
It’s an experience that’s completely changed how he sees the pandemic.
“I’m wearing a mask now,” he said. “Before this I would say, ‘Ah that mask. That’s a bunch of crap.’ I don’t know how I got it. Until someone says this is where you got it from and this is how you got it, I’m going to wear the mask.”
Mascherino said his concerns are not about himself anymore, but of his customers and their safety.
Veterans were unable to meet in the restaurant during the closure.
“We lost contact with a lot of veterans because they couldn’t come in,” said Bobby Tyner, who is with the Orange Heart Medal Foundation. “It’s very nice that Lou’s back now and he’s safe and doing very well.”
Mascherino said he’s blessed to see another day and the end of 2020.
“I don’t think I was a major case,” he said. “I didn’t have to go on a ventilator or anything like that. I just went in the hospital and they put me on oxygen, but not everyone’s that lucky.”
However, the pandemic is far from over, and the restaurant is feeling the impact of its second closure.
“We’re hoping we can stay alive,” Mascherino said. “It cost us a lot. We lost a lot of business. Everyone knows that, but we lost some business. Hopefully we can regain that and recover from that. Keep staying open for the guys and girls. For the veterans.”
The Veterans Cafe and Grille is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday through Fridays.