Responsible Cleveland Restaurant Owners Band Together for #WeCantClose Effort Aimed at Heading Off Another Statewide Shutdown

As Covid cases continue to rise and fears of another statewide lockdown loom, area restaurant owners are banding together to make their voices heard. Along with the Ohio Restaurant Association, prominent operators are announcing in no uncertain terms that they will be pushed to the brink of failure — or beyond — if there is another shutdown.

Together they have launched the hashtag #wecantclose, an effort aimed squarely at influencing Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who has stated that he is considering more drastic measures if conditions do not quickly improve.

A consistent theme voiced by many restaurant owners is that they often get lumped in with unscrupulous bar and restaurant operators who are not following CDC, state and city safety guidelines. In contrast to the behavior at bars like Barley House, which has received multiple citations for blatantly ignoring rules, responsible operators argue that they are going above and beyond to ensure the safety of staff and guest while minimizing the spread of the disease.

“If we did not think that we could provide a safe environment, we’d close ourselves,” says Nick Kostis of Pickwick & Frolic. “To date, we have committed an excess of $25,000 to equip our team with the necessary PPE and precautionary measures to stay safe. #WeCantClose because our community, our business and employee family cannot sustain another devastating disruption.”

Others who have signed onto the effort include Akin Affrica of Angie’s Soul Food, Steve Daniels of Astoria Market, Sam McNulty of Bier Markt and Bar Cento, Dante Boccuzzi of Dante, Brandon Chrostowski of EDWINS, Rocco Whalen of Fahrenheit, Laurie Torres of Mallorca, Malisse Sinito of Marble Room, Said Ouaddaadaa of The Standard, John Lane of Winking Lizard and John Barker of the Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA).

If current conditions continue, and a second shutdown occurs, an estimated 60 percent of dining establishments will close for good, according to the ORA.

“Implementing rigorous health and safety measures has always been at the core of what we do as businesses,” the Ohio Restaurant Association said in a statement. “Many of our members have made significant investments over the past several months to provide additional precautions. We believe that indoor dining, through following the guidance of public health officials, can be done safely.”

Still, as some owners fight for the right to stay open, others are electing to close. Brendon Ring, who was the first to shutter his restaurant Nighttown in spring, has just announced that he will again be closing his doors until spring at the earliest.

“This situation has become untenable,” Ring announced on social media. “It’s time to understand the pressure our frontline workers are under and their situation is becoming more dire by the day. Being so close to the massive hospital campus down the hill more and more of these folks are telling me everyday how rough it’s getting. Therefore no matter what the Governor says on Thursday or possibly before that Nighttown will close till further notice on Sunday November 22nd after Brunch service.”
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Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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