Washington, D.C. (ABC7) — A Washington, D.C., restaurant that went viral for its efforts to feed the poor and homeless is now asking the public for help.

When ABC7 did a story on Sakina Halal Grill in February 2019 – the owner, Kazi Mannan, said it changed his life.

Mannan said business was booming. The Pakistani grill saw an increase in both homeless and paying customers.

Now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, he faces big troubles.

“Business was doing very well,” Mannan explained. “Before COVID-19 hit, we were feeding 70 to 80 people free meals a day.”

His mission? Feeding D.C.’s homeless and needy population from his luxury restaurant without ever asking for a penny.

In a scary turn of events, Mannan says he’s barely able to feed himself. The business has found itself struggling to survive.

“We were closed for four months during the pandemic,” Mannan said. “Each time we would re-open, we sit all day with no customers. Eventually we would just shut down and let the employees go.”

The small restaurant went from 15 to only two employees. Sakina Halal Grill is in the same position many other small businesses are in.

“Right now we are in a bad shape and unable to pay rent” Mannan said. “I am unable to pay my mortgage.”

For five years, Mannan fed thousands of people who can’t afford a meal.

Beyond the delicious flavors you find, the warm Chai Latte or fresh lemon water, you would never know that homeless people are walking in and out to experience the same thing paying customers are.

“If someone says I need a free meal, OK,” Mannan said. He doesn’t ask questions and never judges anybody. His policy has remained the same for the last five years. If you’re hungry, poor or homeless, you eat for free. In 2018, he estimates they served over 16,000 free meals.

“That mission is very close to my heart,” Mannan said with tears in his eyes. “I don’t know how I can survive but that mission of feeding another human being who can’t afford a meal is very close to my heart.”

Sakina Halal Grill, which used to feed the homeless everyday, is now struggling to survive during the coronavirus pandemic. (Caroline Patrickis/ABC7)

With no other option, Mannan was forced to put a stop to giving away free meals because business is struggling.

I can’t feed anybody because I can’t feed myself in this situation” Mannan cried.

Mannan says he’s a person who doesn’t like to ask anything of anyone and now finds himself begging for help.

“Many restaurants are gone forever and right now it’s more important that we can continue the mission and carry the light.”

Mannan is asking for you to support his restaurant by purchasing a meal or donating.

Sakina Halal Grill set up a Gofundme which is asking for donations to help the business stay alive so he can continue feeding D.C.’s homeless.

Click here for more information.

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