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Entre Nous French Bistro

Jean-Christophe Febbrari

119 W Green St, Pasadena, CA 91105

(626) 844-4500

French Bistro Owner’s Relationships with Clients Bring Relief during Pandemic


It was nearing midnight on March 16, 2020, the very last day Entre Nous French Bistro was open before the Covid shutdown. Jean-Christophe Febbrari got into a conversation with the very last guest remaining in the dining room of the cozy Pasadena restaurant. Febbrari and his co-owner Mathias Wakrat make a point of conversing with every diner at their restaurant, so he remembered her from a couple of her previous visits. Little did he know how much the extra care he took building relationships with his guests would pay off. That last guest happened to be Allyson Thomas, the Vice President of Business Development at Pacific Enterprise Bank in Pasadena. Of course, back then, no one knew how long restaurants would be forced to close, but she recommended that Febbrari contact Brett Dickstein at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for any support his business might need in that unpredictable time.

The next day, in the face of the shutdowns, the small business advising teams at SBDC offices all over the country switched into overdrive to help as many businesses as possible. And that same day, Febbrari called the SBDC and asked to speak with Dickstein. As part of the Covid-response team, Dickstein was providing one-on-one support for businesses braving financial uncertainty. 

Meanwhile, during those first few days and weeks of the shutdown, the SBA was moving as quickly as possible to redesign their disaster loan (EIDL) program. The SBA had to scale up the loan program from helping a few small businesses at a time after local disasters like floods and fires to helping a large cross-section of small businesses nationwide. They also added a grant of up to $10,000. So, for the first few days and weeks of the shutdown, disaster loan application systems were in flux while the SBA worked out the kinks. It was very difficult for the average small business owner to sort out how to apply.



However, Febbrari’s advisor was able to keep him apprised of the latest guidance from the SBA so that the restaurant owner could successfully complete his EIDL application. When the SBA established their new system, Febbrari had to redo his application. Dickstein kept Febbrari updated on how long it was taking other applicants to receive their funds. The restaurant owner also applied for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan from Pacific Enterprise Bank and was approved. Dickstein stayed in contact with Febbrari, providing updates on each program and information on other loans and grants. 

Febbrari’s advisor also introduced him to the director of the SBDC based at Pasadena Community College for guidance on other aspects of running a business during Covid, such as how to handle employee layoffs and rehiring. Dickstein informed Febbrari of the PPE Unite program, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Area SBDC, which distributes free PPE to small businesses across California.

As the pandemic dragged on, regulations continued to change for restaurants. They were allowed to open at some points, and then restricted to take-out only again. The Entre Nous menu does not lend itself to take-out and delivery. And Febbrari got discouraged about accessing additional grants. It seemed like they were all underfunded and it was literally the luck of the draw to win. 

Nevertheless, Dickstein strongly encouraged Febbrari to apply for the California Covid Relief Grant, which was better funded. What’s more, the food and beverage industry would be prioritized because of the great impact of the pandemic on their businesses. Dickstein helped his client with a couple of snags on the grant application website, and in the end, Entre Nous won the grant. The restaurant also received a grant from the SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) and a second draw of the PPP.



Entre Nous is back to sit-down dining. And Febbrari remains motivated by his love of running a restaurant. In his words: “You pick the painting on each wall. You pick whatever food you want. It’s exciting to be involved in a creative process! It’s difficult to get people to come out and work in a restaurant, so it’s great to tell them that we are paying a little above the market rate. It’s a good discovery to see people want to show up. It’s like being a conductor: Vendors. Employees. Guests. It’s a live performance. It’s like being on stage. You can’t stop it. When problems happen, you have to deal with them as they happen.”

All the ingredients are ready to cook up a strong come-back for the restaurant. Start with the two co-founders’ experience, dedication, and enthusiasm. Add personalized customer engagement that has inspired loyalty. Mix in Covid financial relief and the relaxation of dining restrictions. Finally, top it off with the consistent support of an SBDC advisor. It’s a recipe for success.  

When asked what the best part of his experience with the SBDC was, Febbrari went straight to the point: “The result. Being able to get what the government was offering. People were saying it was only the big companies getting the support, but we were able to get it. I had no idea how we were going to do it, but I found people like Brett who were able to guide me. If anything, we are proof that a very small business run by two immigrants still learning the English language can overcome all these administrative hurdles.”

And what is his advice to people dreaming of starting a business? “Get out of your chair and start to move and do it. There’s a great reward to taking risks. There is institutional support but you have to get up and create something.”


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