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Pandemic makes Roz Pennington adjust restaurant vision


Roz Pennington is the owner of the New Townhouse Restaurant in Los Angeles, a staple not only in the Black food industry but also in the club scene. She didn’t start with her sights set on owning a restaurant in LA, but life has a funny way of working things out.

Pennington’s background started in St.Louis, Mo., where she attended the University of Missouri and graduated with a degree in engineering. After receiving her degree, Pennington then moved to LA in 1975 and started working at various IT engineering jobs like Pacific Telesis, LA Times Digital Island, and Visa.

During a zoom conference with Pennington, OW learned what took her from engineering to owning a restaurant.

“My dream was to always own a nightclub, but when I met Maryan Mitchell in 1986 while working in corporate America as a subcontractor, Maryan got me involved with the Black Business Association, and my role was to get minority companies into corporate America.

“I also served as the president of the National Black Business Council, and we were invited to the White House by president Obama for the signing of the Economic Recovery Act.”  Said Pennington.

“Maryan and I opened the New Townhouse shortly after, unfortunately, Maryan died one year after we opened. I learned that the restaurant and bar business is no joke. Handling the finances of my business proved to be more difficult than I thought. But with the help of various organizations like the Career Institute of Development; Pacific Coast Regional Corporation; and blog site Restaurant and Hospitality, they provided me with the information I needed to get my business together.”

Pennington saw that when the pandemic hit on March 15, 2020, restaurants nationwide closed.

“Thanks to the opportunity the city gave me, I was able to pivot the business into bulk cooking because the city was serving the seniors, which resulted in my employees cooking 2500 meals a week,” she said. “Once I received a contract from the city, I solely concentrated on bulk cooking. This, unfortunately, meant fewer employees but it also meant less liability.”

This new aspect of the Townhouse kept the doors open.

“Me, focusing on my business, allowed me the ability to pivot without changing my philosophy,” Pennington said.

“This allows me to still go along with whatever my plans are, but if I need to change something mid-way I can do that without affecting the vision too much. You can be prepared for this by knowing your business,” Pennington added.

“Another advantage knowing my business provided me was the ability to rent the bar/club part out and let people use it for repasts during covid. Now there were still restrictions, but this allowed me to bring back 50 percent of my staff during COVID-19 because some of the staffers went from cooks to servers for the repasts. The only other problem was keeping everybody once the unemployment came around, since most of my staff was part-time, they were able to get the benefits while working 20 hours.”

Pennington also announced that the New Townhouse is home to the Las Vegas Raiders fans.

“We have Raider nation and the Raider Riders, so on Raider game days, they pack the house out,” she said. “Our revenue skyrockets during the football season. They also packed the house for the Superbowl even though the Raiders weren’t playing, so I encourage restaurants to build a relationship with the local sports teams and fans in their area.”