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Monday, March 16, 2020

Cleveland Restaurant Owners React to Order that Shutters Restaurants

Posted By on Mon, Mar 16, 2020 at 11:01 AM

  • State of Ohio photo
At 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, all Ohio bars and restaurants were ordered to close until further notice (apart from take-out and delivery business).

Obviously, this action will have devastating repercussions throughout the hospitality industry. Most of the operators I spoke to, while deeply concerned for the well-being of their employees, understand that the move was necessary given the unprecedented state of affairs.

Soon after learning the news, Doug Petkovic, owner of Flannery’s and partner in Michael Symon Restaurants, said, “What the governor has done has been extremely strong and courageous and it’s the right thing for Northeast Ohio, and if other states do not follow suit, they will be in more trouble.”

Rick Doody, owner of Lindey’s Lake House and Cedar Creek Grille, echoes that opinion.

“We 110 percent support the Governor’s decision to close ours and all restaurants and bars,” he says. “This is a deadly serious pandemic. Now we must get about the caring and wellbeing of our NCR associates and their families as best we can.”

Despite the obvious need for drastic measures like these, the repercussions for owners and staff are bound to be overwhelming.

“In the hospitality industry, this is unchartered waters,” Petkovic adds. “I don’t know how independent restaurants and bars are going to come out of this. There are many, many places that will not have the liquidity to be able to hang on – to even pay themselves, pay the mortgages on their own homes, forget the business, they won’t be able to survive that part of it. So many small businesses in America are week to week and month to month.”

Chrostowski wishes that smaller restaurants like his could continue to operate as long as they adhered to strict sanitation protocol.

“I would seriously question this for restaurants that are taking necessary precautions,” he says. “We’ve increased table space, use disposable menus, wipe down door handles, hand washing every 30 minutes… it’s unprecedented.”

Chrostowski says that he’s relieved to hear about assistance measures currently working their way through the system, but it likely will not be enough to stave off misery for many who work in the hospitality industry.

“With no sort of relief it’s going to devastate a lot of people, a lot of families,” he says. “It should be a balance of public health, number one, and the economy, number two.”

Restaurants that are better geared for take-out because of their menus, parking situation and support of the surrounding community will, of course, fare better than those that are not.

“I think a lot of restaurants are going to attempt to do take-out but then very quickly realize that the sheer amount of business required in carry-out to keep a couple employees would have to be significant,” explains Matthew Stipe, owner of Banter.

Stipe adds that both Banter locations, Detroit Shoreway and Van Aken District, currently are open for carry-out food, beer and wine. He hopes that booze and food sales are enough to keep him and his team afloat, but the open-ended nature of the situation is terrifying.

“Who knows how long this lasts and what restaurants will be able to endure , but if this continues for too long there will be a culling of the herd,” he says. “The margins are so thin that restaurants themselves are paycheck to paycheck. It’s going to be really tough.”

Meanwhile, you can support your local establishments buy booking catering and event business, buying take-out food, purchasing merchandise and gift cards for future use, and purchasing tickets for scheduled events like cooking classes and wine tastings. For a list of restaurants offering take-out and gift card sales, visit the Cleveland Independents website.

For guidance on filing for Ohio Unemployment Benefits, click here.

Any local employee affected by the closures can seek help at Edwins starting Tuesday at noon, where staffers will be offering guidance on how to apply for government assistance and others form of relief.

A Facebook Group called Coronavirus Ohio Restaurant Worker Resources has been formed to facilitate discussions among hospitality workers.

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