'I am still here': Oakland restaurant owner explains how he survived a rough 2020

ByAlix Martichoux and Ken Miguel KGO logo
Saturday, December 19, 2020
'Still here': Oakland restaurateur looks back on rough 2020
"I think if you stop, if you've already got boards up, you die. You don't stay alive," Shakewell owner Tim Nugent told us early on in the pandemic. Since then, the restaurant has been doing everything they can to keep the lights on. Here's how he survived a rough 2020.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- As we wrap up 2020, ABC7 is taking a moment to reflect on the stories we've told and the people we've met throughout the year. To read all 13 incredible stories, check out our interactive project here.

On March 16, Tim Nugent showed up to Shakewell, the restaurant he co-owns on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland, and started taking out tables. The governor had just ordered all restaurants to operate at 50% capacity and Nugent was rolling with the punches.

By 2 p.m. that day, he was hit with another curveball: six Bay Area counties ordered a shelter-in-place. Restaurants would only be allowed to do takeout and delivery.

This reinvention was going to take more than just rearranging furniture. He got together with the rest of the management team, threw together a takeout menu in a matter of hours and got to work.

FACING 2020: The people who defined the Bay Area this year

But by May, it was clear the coronavirus had taken its toll. He had to rework his business model from fine dining to 100% takeout and lay off 70% of his staff.

"I don't think anyone had a pandemic in their business plan," Nugent told us in an interview at the time, but he was determined to stay open anyways.

"I think if you stop, if you've already got boards up, you die. You don't stay alive. So people will remember me, and remember Shakewell. We're still here. So when that day comes, we're still here and we're not forgotten."

Click the landing image below to see our full, interactive Facing 2020 project.

The restaurant has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride since then, reopening for outdoor dining, then indoor dining. Then closing indoor dining again.

"So here I am 10 months later, with a patio built in 4 parking spots. It is lit, it is roofed, it is heated, and I am still serving you food in a box. But I am still here," Nugent told us in early December.

Two days later, a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations prompted the county to shut down outdoor dining. Takeout is once again the name of the game.

While regulars still show up, Nugent says the experience just isn't the same as it used to be.

"Probably 80% of any guest that walks in here gets a hug," he says of the good old days. "That's kind of what we are known for."

"We are really, really missing all those hugs. Because it is a very huggable restaurant, and one day we will hug again. I swear."

We spoke to 12 more people who had a life-changing 2020, from COVID-19, to the California fires to the Black Lives Matter movement. Click here to read their stories.