Jacksonville family closing downtown restaurant due to cancer battle, COVID-19 pandemic

Struggling downtown cafe closing its doors due to COVID-19

Jacksonville, Fla. — A Jacksonville family said they made the difficult decision to permanently close their restaurant because of the COVID-19 pandemic and their health.

Benoit Desclefs and his wife Kathy opened Magnificat Café 17 years ago in the heart of downtown Jacksonville on Laura St. “We went through ups and downs, you know depending on the economy, but we came through every time, except this time,” Benoit said.

In a Facebook post this week, the family announced they were shutting down the restaurant at the end of service Friday. They said the gave it their best try, but COVID-19 coupled with their compromised immune systems made it hard to keep going. “It’s hard to say goodbye,” Kathy said. Closing is a difficult decision, but the Desclefs said it’s the right one. “We need to take care of our self and close the restaurant,” Benoit said.

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The Desclefs said their health is the main reason they are closing for good.

Action News Jax first introduced you to the Desclefs in December when Kathy, Benoit and their son Luke were all battling different cancers at the same time.

At the time, the Desclefs were struggling to keep the business afloat while they were being treated for cancer.

The family said the community rallied around them and they saw an uptick in business. “That really gave me a lot of hope. You know, business picked up. December was the best month and it kept going into January and then February and then the virus hit,” Benoit said.

He said the coronavirus crushed their momentum. “That went down the drain really fast,” Benoit said.

The family said the restaurant’s revenue dropped 60% during the peak of the pandemic. They said the business relies on foot traffic from people working downtown, but with many still working from home it’s been slow.

As for their health, Luke, who had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is now cancer-free and a freshman at Florida State University. Benoit finished treatment for a brain tumor.

Unfortunately, Kathy, who’s battling a rare lymphoma, said her cancer is slowly spreading. “Closing the restaurant will let me focus on my health and really looking at what I can do to extend my life,” Kathy said.

In the Facebook post, the family said they will not forget all of the love and support from the community. They wrote, “We had the best customers in all of Jacksonville and it has been nothing but a pleasure to serve you over all these years.”

The Desclefs said opening a restaurant was a risk worth taking and they would do it all over again. “It’s worth the risk. Taking risks are what make life enriching. The COVID coming, it was all part of the risk. So, you lose, but we had a really strong running,” Kathy said.