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Northeast restaurant owners trying new things to keep doors open

As restauranteurs see the light at the end of the tunnel, they're pulling out all the stops to stay afloat until the pandemic ends.

BRECKSVILLE, Ohio — About three out of five Ohio restaurants say if things don’t change soon, they’ll be forced to close up shop for good within six. That’s according to a new survey released by the Ohio Restaurant Association.

"These restaurants, it’s a place where people meet, it’s not just about having a meal," says Matt Harper, owner of Creekside Restaurant in Brecksville. "It’s the fabric of a lot of these communities.”

2020 has brought a drastic change in the business model for all kinds of establishments, but for restauranteurs, the only constant thing has been change.

"Obviously, challenging would be an understatement," Harper told 3News. "Everything from all the dividers between the booths and the hand sanitizer and dividing takeout with the people coming in the restaurant, we’re rolling with the punches."

As guidelines, orders and restrictions continue, some owners like Harper are forced to throw up Hail Marys to try keep in line with codes, customers happy and their doors open.

"We’re in a business now where you have a certain percent of the population that are literally afraid to come to your business," Harper says. "Originally when you had a restaurant, you just worried about giving good service and good food. Now, you have to really worry about making people feel safe and wanting to come into your business."

Harper spent more than $50,000 to help make people feel safe and comfortable. He added a new air filtration system inside and a new state of the art heating system outside. He’s hoping between the two, it’ll allow Creekside to stay afloat until a permanent end to this pandemic comes around.

"It’s not an expense," he said. "It’s an investment."

Harper certainly isn’t alone, with scores of restaurants across the state now desperate for financial help following the ORA's gloomiest projection made yet. However, as they wait for government assistance or widespread availability of a vaccine, owners like Harper will continue to do whatever they can to avoid the expiration date most restaurants say is looming.

"We’re basically losing money every day we walk in the door," he admitted. "We always knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel, we just didn’t know when. Our whole goal is that we’re going to be there at the other side, whenever that is. We’ll make whatever changes and investments that we need to do, to get to that point."


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