PITTSFIELD — Flavours of Malaysia in downtown Pittsfield is planning to close by the end of this year, unable to overcome the lingering hardship caused by COVID-19 restrictions placed on restaurants and other businesses.
“It is with sadness that we have made the tough decision to permanently close the doors,” owners Chin and Sabrina Tan wrote Monday in a message on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
In a phone conversation, Sabrina Tan said the restrictions that have been placed on restaurants have made it difficult to continue to run the business they have owned for 13 years.
“COVID is the culprit. ... It hurt us a lot businesswise, and it’s hard to get help,” she said. “We usually make our money in the summer, and we’d cover ourselves through the winter and spring, but this year it doesn’t look like it.”
Because of the restrictions on indoor dining, Tan said, Flavours was only able to seat 15 or 20 patrons at a time in its dining room — an area that normally can accommodate 75 to 90 diners.
“During the last three months I’ve been going from kitchen to the kitchen sink,” she said, referring to the variety of tasks she has performed at the restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have had good friends that have helped sometimes, but a lot of this we had to do ourselves.”
After the state closed restaurants in March because of the pandemic, the Tans cooked, packaged and delivered hundreds of community meals for people, including staffers in many divisions at Berkshire Health Systems.
Sabrina Tan also placed hand-drawn thank-you notes on citrus fruits that went out with the meals, and sewed and donated face masks for anyone who wanted one when they came to the restaurant.
In 2018, Tan was one of four women from the Berkshires named to that year’s Class of Unsung Heroes by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.
She was nominated for that award by state Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittfield, and William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox.
“Sabrina and Chin really created more than a restaurant … [they created] a real community space. They are so community-minded, whether it was working in soup kitchens or with community suppers,” Farley-Bouvier said. “The restaurant was really more than just a place to eat.
“I have to admit that I’m kind of angry with the universe that it’s come down to this,” she said. “But, it also reminds me that I’m so grateful to them for all they’ve done.”
There were dozens of comments listed on the Tans’ Facebook page by midafternoon Monday. They ranged from shock to sadness to gratitude.
“You will always have a place at my table,” stated a post from Jeremy Squires.
The Tans, natives of Malaysia, originally opened Flavours at the former Econo Lodge on Route 7 in Lenox in 2007, before moving to The Central Block on North Street two years later. Malaysia is a former British colony, and “flavours” is the British spelling for the word “flavors.”
In their Facebook post, the Tans looked back.
“We have celebrated and shared lots of good memories over the years from the news of new babies and marriages to dancing the night away to live bands,” they wrote. “You supported us in our early days at the Econo Lodge and faithfully followed and supported us to our move to Pittsfield.
“Flavours became a family and we will miss you!”
The Tans also thanked their customers for their support through the years.
“You donated thousands of dollars so I could Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, contributed to our soup kitchen, school lunch program, lunch/dinner for our essential workers and you shared a million stories, laughs and tears with me,” the post read. “We are very grateful and want to thank all our family, friends, customers and employees that helped us place Flavours in the top 10 percent worldwide according to TripAdvisor.”