541 Eatery & Exchange is extending its temporary closure and has laid off its restaurant operations staff as the social enterprise works to revamp its business and service model in response to increased food prices and increasing demand for its services.

541 is best known for their pay it forward model in which patrons can purchase buttons for $1 each, and other people can use those buttons to help pay for food at the cafe.

Similar to all restaurants, 541 was hard hit by COVID closures. As businesses were allowed to reopen, 541 experienced decreased business with fewer people eating out, and fewer people doing business lunches.

Increasing food costs are an added pressure facing the business that seeks to maintain affordability.

Nearby Woodlands Park is home to many people living in encampments. Encampment residents have sought support at 541, exceeding the organization’s capacity.

“The climate and reality around us including the housing shortage, opioid crisis and mental health emergencies in our city have dramatically increased the volume and complexity of the needs of our community members,” reads the statement posted by 541’s Board of Directors.

The organization says they “anticipate a gradual re-opening starting in the fall.”

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Published: August 11, 2023
Last edited: August 11, 2023
Author: Joey Coleman
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