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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Buckeye Vodka Hosting Virtual Bartending Contest with Cash Prizes for Ohio Mixologists Laid-Off Because of COVID-19

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2020 at 11:44 AM

  • Buckeye Vodka

Among other establishments facing temporary closure, the country’s restaurants and bars — and their bartenders and waitstaff — have taken one of the hardest hits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No longer able to work, many people in the service industry are facing reduced hours and layoffs. Ohio-made vodka brand Buckeye Vodka is looking to do what they can to help Ohio’s bartenders during this time of crisis.

“An Outpouring of Love” is a newly launched campaign by Buckeye that is looking to put money directly into the hands of Ohio’s top bartenders through an online contest. This April, bartenders from Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, Akron and Dayton will have a chance to show their skills by submitting a mixology video to Buckeye Vodka for a chance to win cash prizes. The total purse for the prizes adds up to $4,500 to be distributed among the top five winners.

Bartenders and mixologists from each Buckeye Vodka region will have their videos judged by qualified representatives using the following criteria: Creativity and originality of the cocktail and overall attitude of the bartender.

“The Buckeye State has been hit hard, and our bartenders are one of the groups that has been hit the hardest, and earliest,” said Jim Finke, co-founder of Buckeye Vodka. “Our hearts go out to them, and we want to help. We’re hoping this campaign will provide a much needed creative outlet for Ohioans at home, fill the winners’ pocket with some much-needed cash, and turn up the awareness of the need, overall.”

Consumers can also enter the contest and show their skills for the chance to win non-cash prizes, like a $100 valued Buckeye Vodka gift basket. All contestants must be 21 or older to participate.

If you’re a bartender who has been displaced from your job in the past three months and you're interested in entering the contest, you can upload your mixology video to your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts and tag @BuckeyeVodka and your prior establishment, using the hashtag #BVBartender.

If you’re a consumer looking to participate, upload your video with the hashtag #BVFan.

More information on the contest can be found at

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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Ohio Restaurants Lost $700 Million in Sales in March Due to Coronavirus, 10% Foresee Closing Permanently in April

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2020 at 2:05 PM

  • Alan Levine/FlickrCC
The numbers are somehow even more grisly than one might expect.

In just the first three weeks of March, Ohio restaurants lost $698 million in sales and laid off more than 100,000 employees, according to a report from the Ohio Restaurant Association in conjunction with the National Restaurant Association.

And as the coronavirus pandemic inflicts severe financial damage across the industry, torpedoing businesses large and small that did nothing to invite the pain, the numbers are only going to get worse. The same report said that about 10% of restaurants that made it through March forecasted they will have to close permanently in the next month while others who have adapted to take-out and delivery-only operations struggle to stay open on slimmer than usual profit margins.

While help may be on the horizon with county, state and federal assistance, for many restaurants, the damage has already been done, with years and decades of work being undone in a matter of weeks.

As the crisis stretches on and the state's stay-home order likely lasting into mid-spring, operations that had fought to keep the doors open and employees on payroll so far are now looking at some hard numbers as they ponder whether or not, based on financials and health reasons, to keep going and whether to re-up from suppliers and wholesalers. In just the last few days, for example, Crust Pizza and Sokolowski's have decided to temporarily shutter until further notice. The second wave of closures, temporary or otherwise, will continue from here.

Places like Spice have already decided that dining out will likely look different on the other side of this crisis than it did before. Industry luminaries are loudly telling anyone who will listen that help needs to arrive in short order and in magnitudes or we'll be looking at mass closures this year. The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association estimates that 1 in 3 restaurants in that state won't reopen when the crisis is over.

One in three.

And some think the percentages will be worse than that.

Remember to support your local restaurant with takeout or delivery business. Our running list of options can be found here.

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Dave's Markets Buys Cleveland and Columbus Lucky's Market Locations

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2020 at 2:28 PM

  • Google Maps

While Lucky's Markets filed for bankruptcy and the majority of its stores earlier this year, the Cleveland location remained open.

This week, it got a new owner.

Dave's Markets bought that store and the Columbus-area Lucky's Market at auction for a total of $1.25 million.

The sale will be finalized next week.

"The Saltzman family is excited to announce the forthcoming acquisition of the Lucky’s Markets locations in Cleveland and Columbus. With long time roots in the city of Cleveland and as proud Buckeye alumni, the family has strong Ohio ties. The Saltzman’s are looking forward to retaining the store team members and continuing to provide the Lucky’s shopping experience," Dave's said in a statement.

About 500 employees work at the six locations sold at auction; they will be offered jobs, according to today's announcement. 

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Meijer to Install Plexiglass Shields to Combat Coronavirus

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2020 at 9:22 AM

Michigan-based retailer Meijer announced Wednesday that it would be taking extra safety measures across its 248 supercenters as the coronavirus continues to sweep through the state.

As an essential business, Meijer and other grocery stores are among those allowed to operate during Ohio's stay at home order issued by Gov. Mike DeWine. To combat the risk of COVID-19 exposure, Meijer unveiled several new features — and the temporary removal of others.

To add another line of defense between customers and Meijer employees, the retail chain will install plexiglass cough/sneeze shields at each checkout lane. They will also use floor markers to mark a six-foot distance between customers waiting in line at checkout, pharmacy, and service counters — the space the CDC recommends for "social distancing." Folks are also being asked to use their shopping carts to gauge safe distances between themselves and other customers.

You won't be able to use reusable bags from home, either, as they're suspending the use of reusable bags in an effort to control contact with potentially contaminated materials. The only exception is to those taking advantage of Meijer's shop and scan program.

Last week, Meijer unveiled adjusted hours of operation to allow its team members to safely sanitize and restock the store. Meijer is now open from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, so no more 24-hour shopping runs.

For those at high risk of coronavirus and complications, senior citizens and those customers who have chronic health conditions, Meijer will be open exclusively between 7-8 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Essential workers and Meijer employees are also encouraged to take advantage of their dedicated shopping times, which are Mondays and Wednesdays also during the 7-8 a.m. hour.

For more information about Meijer locations, adjusted hours, or sanitation efforts, visit

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Trader Joe's Confidential: Employee Worries the Company Isn't Taking Coronavirus Safety Seriously

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2020 at 9:19 AM

  • IK World Trip/FlickrCC
Editor’s Note: As the coronavirus pandemic escalated into a national crisis, grocery stores have become unexpectedly risky places to work. A Texan Trader Joe’s employee, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, reached out our sister paper in San Antonio to offer perspective on what it's like to work during this crisis and voice concerns the company may not be taking adequate measures to protect employees.

Working at Trader Joe’s, long lines and big crowds have always been a reality, and we always handled it with a smile. But now, with a highly contagious — and sometimes deadly — virus spreading worldwide, what was once an everyday occurrence now poses high risk for employees.

Trader Joe’s works hard to project the image of a happy-go-lucky store that supplies its customers with exciting and interesting products. As part of its company culture, it adopted the Japanese concept of “Kaizen,” in which every employee — from a cashier to the CEO — works to continuously improve the company’s functions. In our store, we use it in our day-to-day work to better ourselves, our practices and our customers’ experiences.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the company has little regard for the safety and health of its loyal employees — and its customers too.

Right now, it feels like Kaizen has fallen by the wayside.

Gloves Off

Like many companies, Trader Joe’s put out a statement promising updated cleaning and hygiene practices to help combat the coronavirus. But no detailed updates or rules have been communicated in my store. If any internal statements were sent to management instructing store staff to do anything but clean a little more, we as lower ranking crew members haven't heard or seen them.

At my store, there's a lack of communication regarding procedural cleaning and few social distancing rules, and we have been discouraged from wearing protective gloves. For a while, I was under the impression that these experiences were exclusive to my specific Trader Joe’s, but posts on social media and a recent Buzzfeed News article suggest my experience isn't isolated — it may be occurring at most of our locations across the country.

While many companies have created mandatory cleaning and isolation protocols to help combat coronavirus transmission, to my knowledge no such protocols have been issued by the Trader Joe’s corporate office. We lack a unified voice of direction. Instead, each store is responsible for its own cleaning methods.

My store has increased cleaning, but not by much. During my shifts, I’ve been able to find time to quickly wipe down the register and card reader — and sometimes hit door handles with a sanitizer wipe — but not much else. We have received no extra supplies to accommodate the extra cleaning.

In reality, this is just a slightly bolstered version of our standard day-to-day cleaning, especially with how busy the store has been. Weeks ago, before the pandemic really took off in the U.S., our cleaning protocols were essentially the same as they are now.

From what I've seen in my position, Trader Joe’s has only weakly attempted to implement any social distancing rules. Although the stores are generally much smaller than typical grocery stores, until recently there was no limit to how many customers could come into Trader Joe's at any given time. There is no company-mandated exclusive time set aside for elderly and immunocompromised customers to shop, so they are at the mercy of timing and chance. Additionally, while we have been able to accommodate curbside pickups in small numbers upon request, the service has not been formally implemented at stores.

This weekend, management at my store introduced additional social distancing measures that included a limit to the number of people allowed inside, but a Reddit thread first posted on Friday indicates that the policies at my location weren't universal.

As far as self-protection goes, we have been told multiple times by management that we should not wear gloves, as it could "give customers a bad impression." Aside from employees' constant public interaction, this is especially concerning for us since we still accept and fill personal totes and bags with our customer’s groceries, raising the potential for exposure.

On Saturday, the company sent out a letter to clarify its position on gloves — namely, that there is no specific policy related to wearing them, and that anyone who wants to wear them can.

Yet the letter also states that the "usual approach" Trader Joe’s management follows is "talking with Crew Members about why gloves aren’t beneficial in keeping them safe and what message our use of gloves might send to our customers."

Hazards, But No Pay

While the Buzzfeed article didn’t spare H-E-B from criticism, the beloved Texan grocery chain has successfully implemented several companywide changes during this crisis to protect its employees and customers alike, including giving all hourly employees a temporary $2 raise.

Meanwhile, Trader Joe’s has only made trivial changes to its policies, and it's baiting employees with a bonus that's insufficient compensation for the level of risk we face.

On Sunday, March 15, the Trader Joe’s Union launched a petition for hazard pay for the company’s employees, which has received 19,642 signatures so far. In response, the company instead proposed a one-time bonus for workers that will be based on increased sales during the first month of the pandemic crisis. However, experts say the pandemic is in its early stages, so a one-time payment will not fairly compensate us for the continued risk we face.

Employees are also being misled by management into thinking the petition for hazard pay is a sign-up to join the union, which is simply not the case. Managers are speaking about it in a negative way, and some crew members have opted to not sign out of fear of retaliation.

In the spirit of Kaizen…

A Seattle store has already been shut down due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19, and reports are coming out that an employee has tested positive in New York as well.

We’re told to smile and keep a cheerful attitude while our concerns are ignored, but deep down, we’re scared of the way things are being run. And you should be too.

Trader Joe’s cannot afford to keep reacting to this crisis after each development. Our company’s policies have to change immediately to protect our workers and customers.

In company-wide emails, Trader Joe’s higher ups often write, "in the spirit of Kaizen..."

So, in the spirit of Kaizen, I ask that Trader Joe’s treat and protect its crew members and loyal customers as well as it’s made the public think it would.

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Ohio Beer Sales Were Up 38% in the Week Before Coronavirus Shutdown

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2020 at 1:37 PM

  • Noble Beast FB

The Buckeye State saw the coronavirus pandemic coming and took, for the most part, necessary steps to provide for each other's safety as Ohioans worked to flatten the curve.

We worked from home. We skipped unnecessary social functions. We called our parents and told them to do the same.

We washed our hands

We stocked up on groceries, in a responsible way, not like preppers.

And we bought all the beer. All of it. Or most all of it, anyway.

According to Nielsen, Ohio off-premise beer sales were up 38% for the week ending March 14 over that same period in 2019. Those numbers topped all other states, with only Pennsylvania (33%) and Michigan (36%) coming close.

And those numbers are likely to go up.

“I think we’ll see the biggest jumps for the week ending March 14th and the week after that, and then we will start to see some of those spikes soften a bit,” Nielsen's VP of Beverage Alcohol Practice told Brewbound. “A look into market by market will also be important. As cities and states enter a shelter-in-place phase, I think we can expect to see some spikes in sales for those markets, as consumers stock up and prepare to be at home for an unknown amount of time.”

“To me, this is an indication that beverage alcohol is important to consumers, but other consumer good categories are being prioritized, at least for now,” Kosmal said. “As more and more on premise locations close, I think we will continue to see off premise sales for Beer, Wine, and Spirits grow even more, and closing the gap with other consumer goods.”

It was, of course, not all good news on the beer front. Breweries have been shutdown and limited to takeout or delivery orders, and thousands have been laid off in the industry across the state. Be sure to grab a six pack or crowler, or three, from your favorite local shop this weekend.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

This Shit's No Joke: Waffle House Closes 418 Locations Due to Coronavirus, Including Some in Ohio

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2020 at 5:08 PM

Waffle House, whose penchant for remaining open even in cases of natural disaster is so consistent that FEMA uses its rare closures to determine the severity of such disasters, has announced that they will be temporarily closing 418 of their locations due to coronavirus, including several in the St. Louis area.

As odd as it sounds, the so-called "Waffle House Index" is a tool used by FEMA to measure just how badly a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado has affected the community where the restaurant is located.

Former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate explained the line of thinking behind the index in a 2016 NPR interview:

"They are open most of the time. And that was the index. If a Waffle House is closed because there's a disaster, it's bad. We call it red. If they're open but have a limited menu, that's yellow," he said. "If they're green, we're good, keep going. You haven't found the bad stuff yet."

Waffle House's Wednesday morning tweet announcing the closures started with a concerning hashtag, then: #WaffleHouseIndexRed.
In other words, if you absolutely must get your Cheesesteak Melt Hashbrown Bowl fix, you have options. But considering the Waffle House Index is currently flashing red, you might also consider taking caution — and taking this COVID-19 stuff very seriously.

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