On Wednesday, Jerk Machine, a staple within the Caribbean-American community in Lauderhill, will celebrate 31 years at its current location. But what should be a week of celebration was turned sour when the restaurant owners were hit with a three-day eviction notice at the beginning of the week.
Like many businesses in the area, COVID-19 has severely impacted the operations of Jerk Machine. Catherine Malcolm, who owns the restaurant alongside her husband, Desmond, explains that she has tried to get federal aid to keep the restaurant going, but so far, she has been unsuccessful.
“I’ve been, like, using up all my reserves and pulling for every single place that I can to stay open,” she told WSVN, “and I found that I am actually operating this business like a soup kitchen.”
To Caribbean-Americans, especially Jamaicans, Jerk Machine is not just a restaurant, but a haven where they feel most at home.
The restaurant made its roots in Lauderhill in 1989, and has since become the soul of the Caribbean community, for not only the food and atmosphere but also their philanthropy. Malcolm said she takes in many neighborhood children who just want to learn.
“I have a program called Portabella, and that’s about training and developing young people, like how to come out of themselves and learn how to be trained and developed in the restaurant business,” she said.
Just last week, Malcolm also fed more than 150 homeless people, a tradition that she’s kept going over the years.
“She fixed up, when I tell you, a five-course meal that fed the homeless,” said Tony Neal, CEO of Homeless Hearts, one of the partners of the food distribution. “She gave them what she loves to eat, and that was jerk chicken, stewed beef.”
Malcolm said she knows that many of their patrons are out of work and hurting.
Jamaican-American Commissioner of Lauderhill, Melissa Dunn is just one of the community leaders rallying support to keep the restaurant open. Dunn is assisting the owners with a city grant, but that process is expected to take some time.
In the meantime, a GoFundMe Page has been started to get Malcolm and her husband immediate help.