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'Open Tab Lorain' has people buying meals for each other, supporting small businesses

Posted at 6:54 AM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 22:50:26-04

LORAIN, Ohio — The revitalization and renaissance of Broadway Avenue in Lorain has been a source of pride for the community, as once-vacant storefronts turned into bustling businesses over the last couple of years.

But when the coronavirus pandemic hit and people went into lockdown, the fears of those empty businesses returning became a real concern.

It’s why Lorain Police Sgt. Jacob Morris and Reuben Nodal of RAN Foreword Media decided to start up what is called “Open Tab Lorain” — an idea that’s already helping small businesses see success.

The premise is simple — people paying for each other's meals — leaving “open tabs” at local restaurants.

Anything from $10, $20 to a few hundred dollars as some companies have.

“It’s up to us as citizens to make sure they’re seeing busy lunch hours, busy dinner hours,” Nodal said.

Sgt. Morris said the idea came after the Specialized Trust Company donated 200 free meals of burgers and fries from Broadway Mary’s to industry workers, barbers, and hairstylists affected by COVID-19.

“It was such a heartwarming gesture, and so helpful that there may be other businesses out there who may be looking for ways they can help our small businesses get through some of these tough times,” Sgt. Morris said. Their Facebook page with more details is Lorain Food Spots.

Then Lorain City prosecutor Mallory Santiago joined in, opening up a tab for her essential employees at the courthouse to grab coffee and pastries at Uniontown Provisions.

“Just a small way for me to say ‘Hey, I see you, thanks for being with me at work, we’re going to get through this together,’” Santiago said. “So now I’m able to not only show my appreciation to my colleagues for their hard work and their sacrifices, but I can also support local businesses in Lorain.”

For Mary Fields, who opened Broadway Mary’s in late February, just weeks before the outbreak began, 70 percent of their sales were coming from those dining in.

Instead of laying off her eight employees, Fields gave them all a $2 raise and is continuing as many carry-out orders as they can to stay afloat. She said the “Open Tab Lorain” program has helped with that success.

“It’s giving us all hope, and we’re all working together on this and it just proves we’re all going to get through it together,” Fields said.

Tell us about a business or group of businesses that are finding ways (responsibly, of course) to serve their communities during Ohio's "stay at home" order. Fill out the form on News5Cleveland.com/Open.