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Canton sports bar closes amid pandemic, staffing shortages

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 18:57:42-05

CANTON, Ohio — The owners of popular sports bars in Stark County are closing one of their locations, citing uncertainty caused during the pandemic, staffing shortages and an expiring lease.

TD's Tailgate Grill in Canton shut down after Christmas and did not reopen. It had served customers for 10 years.

A sign posted on the front door reads, "Unfortunately, the uncertainty of the future with respect to staffing, supply chain disruptions and other financial impacts caused by the last 21 months of COVID-19 has led us to this point."

The TD's Tailgate Grill location on North Main Street in North Canton will remain open and has extended its hours.

Owner Kim Shapiro said six to eight employees will lose their jobs from the Canton closure, but she's trying to help the workers land jobs at other area restaurants.

Other employees will shift from the Canton location to the North Canton restaurant, including Ashley Prine who managed the Canton spot since last July.

"It's been really, really sad. I feel for the people that I am close with that have been here a lot longer than me because it's like a second home to them," Prine said.

Pivoting during the pandemic has been a constant for Shapiro who made headlines following health orders in 2020 when she put up shower curtains to provide social distancing in Twisted Citrus, another restaurant she owns in North Canton.

"The shower curtains came down on June 18, so we happily burned the shower curtains," she said.

Shapiro said there were several factors that determined it was the last call for the TD's Tailgate Grill on Tuscarawas Street W.

The lease on the building was coming up and the restaurant had faced multiple challenges during the pandemic.

"Our lunch business essentially died out at that location and that was huge. We took a hit in 2020 just like everybody else did and we still haven't gotten all that business back," Shapiro said.

In addition, staffing shortages at both TD's restaurants created fatigue and mental health overload for those on the job, she explained.

"I would say that we were running each location at about 60% staff, so there's only so many times you can go to the well as owners, as management," Shapiro told News 5.

Shapiro said the final straw was the spike in the Omicron variant which hit during the grill's busiest time of the year— the holiday season— and got several workers sick.

"Halfway through, we lost four people, which when you're running a staff of 14 and you lose four of them and you were already at 60%, there were many of us working 70 to 80 hours a week."

Despite the obstacles, Shapiro and the managers said they're focusing on future opportunities.

They're planning to bring back a popular pop-up bar, which was used at the Canton location, and believe a renewed focus on one TD's location will score big with both customers and employees.

"We're here to make sure that our staff is happy and that our customers are happy," Prine said.