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In-Depth: Local restaurants prep for cold weather COVID-19 financial battle

Posted at 9:47 PM, Sep 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-16 23:09:47-04

CLEVELAND — Local restaurant owners are gearing up for an even greater financial challenge, as COVID-19 restrictions carry into the fall and winter season.

John Barker, President and CEO with the Ohio Restaurant Association, told News 5 cold weather is on the way, and will further hurt restaurants statewide that relied on outdoor patio dining as a significant revenue stream.

“We talk to our operators all the time and 50% of them said they don’t understand how they could survive into 2021 with current conditions,” Baker said.

“We’ve had restaurants report anywhere between down 20% or down more than 70%.”

“The restaurant industry unemployment rate is pushing to 19% to 20%. And if you think about it, other than the government and the medical industry, we’re the second or third largest industry in the State of Ohio."

Barker pointed to a new National Restaurant Association report that now shows 100,000 restaurants have been forced to close due to the pandemic in the past six months.

He said his association has assembled a restaurant task force, with some owners working on plans to put up tents and add heating to their patio areas, in an effort to further extend the outdoor dining season.

“We think maybe 30% to 40% of restaurants will step-out and do these kinds of things, particularly if they have a space," Barker said.

“We need to get the City of Cleveland or other big cities in Ohio to work with their local operators and say we’re going to try to make this work.”

Barker said the State of Ohio needs to relaxing restaurant restrictions, and the federal government needs to approve new COVID-19 assistance to prevent the closing of hundreds of restaurants over the next 6 months.

“The first limitation that we’re asking to be considered is the statewide curfew on alcohol,” Barker said

“Cause right now it’s 10 o’clock, and that’s been devastating for the bars, just devastating.”

“And the federal government, you’re talking about late November to take action on this. That unconscionable, it’s their responsibility to negotiate and come up with a solution to this and take care of the businesses forever.”

Bac Nguyen, co-owner of the Ninja City Kitchen and Bar in Cleveland's Gordon Square, is one of the restaurant owners working toward adding a tent to his patio dining area.

Nguyen expressed his concern for restaurants who don't have outdoor dining or a vibrant carry-out business.

“Thinking about the coming cold months is definitely something my partner Dylan and I have definitely been losing some sleepover,' Nguyen said.

“I highly doubt when it’s a blizzard and zero that anyone is going to sit out here.”

“That’s why we’re just kind of bracing for the worst.”

“Tons of operators out there who are on their last leg, and if they don’t have the solid next month, solid next two months, we don’t know what’s going to happen to them."

“That is a scary thing, we’ve already lost, even just in Cleveland, a great many treasured places have closed, and we don’t know if it’s going to get even worse.”