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'We have to endure.' How Slyman's is working through the COVID-19 pandemic

'A lot of places are suffering right now. Everybody is just in a bad spot right now.'

CLEVELAND — “Business is not the same,” said Slyman's downtown manager, Sam Slyman. “A lot of places are suffering right now. Everybody is just in a bad spot right now.”

Owner Moe Slyman echoed those sentiments as the restaurant industry continues working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been an awful year,” he said. "It doesn’t feel right. Working behind a mask, closed windows, everybody’s sick of this mandate. Everybody is really tired of it. But we just have to endure. You know? We have to.”

Endure. That’s the only option restaurants like Slyman's have had throughout the last 10 months. Working with a skeleton crew, the Cleveland staple has stayed open throughout the pandemic with carry out only.

RELATED: The story behind Slyman's and its legendary corned beef in Cleveland: NorthEATS Ohio

Editor's note: Video above about Slyman's history was originally published on March 22, 2019.

In the 57 years that Sylman's has been piling their famous corned beef, they’ve never fought so hard to keep their doors open.

“We are trying our best just to keep the business going because this is some rough times,” said Sam Slyman.

Rough times for Slyman's and every restaurant throughout Northeast Ohio.

According to Destination Cleveland, 91% of restaurants won’t break even, let alone turn a profit this year. In a survey done by the Ohio Restaurant Association, 75% of restauranteurs say they may be forced to close for good.

“So many of these restaurants, they make up the fabric in what’s so special about Cleveland,” said David Gilbert, CEO of Destination Cleveland. “When we lose those types of restaurants, it hurts”

David Gilbert and Destination Cleveland’s mission is typically to get visitors to Cleveland. Since the pandemic, they have shifted to helping Cleveland businesses simply survive.

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They have worked with Cuyahoga County providing 168 small businesses with $10,000 grants. They have also started programs like ‘Roam the Winter Wonderland’ were during the brutal winter months, they provide equipment to make outdoor dining a reality for restaurants.

“If we can help those businesses, but more importantly those people, it really makes a difference,” Gilbert said.

We at 3News are doing our part as well. We're calling it "Save our Sauce." From now through March, we will be shedding light on a variety of restaurants throughout Northeast Ohio. Restaurants like Proper Pig BBQ in Lakewood.

They have been forced to just offer carry out and delivery throughout the pandemic. Compared to business last year, they are down 35% -- but are still going. That’s thanks to their loyal following.

RELATED: 3News launches 'Save our Sauce' campaign: How you can support local restaurants

“It just shows us how good the community is,” said co-owner Shane Vidovic. "They tip a little more knowing they are helping our employees out. It’s taught us, if you’re willing to work hard and put yourself out there anything is possible.”

It takes an effort by the community, for the community.

“Look around your own community. What are the restaurants you’d be really sad to lose?” said food journalist, Doug Trattner. “Take a look at yourself. This is a restaurant I’d be really sad to lose and go support them.”

It’s that support that could mean the difference for the families that desperately depend on it.

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