To Our Beloved Pagoda People, Customers, Neighbors, and Friends,

I am making the decision to suspend Pagoda Cafe’s operations starting this afternoon, due to COVID 19 pandemic. This is a decision we have wrestled with and don’t take lightly.

Starting tomorrow (March 16), we will be closed and our amazing staff will be laid off. This decision is informed by doctors, public healthcare workers, scientists, and the lessons being learned from other countries who are in this fight. I believe these are the only people we should be listening to at this point, and what I hear from them is the clear need to not overwhelm our healthcare system, to give the most vulnerable the best chance to survive this pandemic. They tell us that the more we can practice social isolation, the more lives we can save, and the better and faster we can come through the other side. I put my faith in their learnings.

I know my fellow service industry workers, managers, and owners have been wrestling with what to do, especially in a town dependent on hospitality, tourism, and the service sector. And I know that folks in our industry are super-tough, with strong tendencies to push through, adapt, and find a way regardless of the cost. I don’t judge any other small business owners who are struggling to make it just like everyone else (me included), but I do judge our business and civic “leaders”, who have not seen past their checkbooks. I believe the time is now to take action. It isn’t radical if it is necessary. And I can no longer in good conscience put financial decisions before human ones.

I want to say that at Pagoda, we aren’t making this decision out of fear, about what the worst may or may not bring, but out of love – love for ourselves and for the most vulnerable in our lives. And we all have vulnerable people in our lives: the immuno-compromised, diabetic folk, pregnant people, folks with weakened respiratory systems, the elderly, and the marginalized people in New Orleans who struggle to survive with little access to quality health care on the best of days.This will have profound impacts on our staff.

Our staff is meeting to answer questions, discuss mutual aid, and how we can be useful to each other in our community in our time off. I will share ways that folks who have means can contribute directly to our beloved staff. And if folks in our Pagoda community have ideas, resources, or asks – please reach out to us at

We have no time to waste. I am grateful for the lessons the people of New Orleans have taught me around mutual aid, loving each other, and surviving and thriving. I am also grateful for the lessons 2005 taught us around demanding what we need from our political leaders and protecting ourselves from the the vultures in suits trying to profit over our suffering. Whatever your political home is, please advocate for people over profits. And if you don’t have one yet, find one that reflects human values, freedom, and justice and fight like hell. We are all in this together.

With Love,
Shana Sassoon
Owner and Manager

Pagoda Cafe