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Downtown Cleveland's restaurants face uphill battle in bounce back from pandemic

3,000 restaurants have closed in Ohio over the past 14 months.

CLEVELAND — Restaurants around the country have collectively lost $280 billion in sales due to the pandemic, according to recent data provided by the Ohio Restaurant Association. And local businesses aren’t immune, with several having shuttered their doors in the past year.

At least 3 restaurants on East 4th Street in downtown Cleveland have permanently closed, including Michael Symon’s Lola after 24 years in business. That’s just one of 3,000 restaurants that closed in Ohio over the past 14 months. 

RELATED: Report: Michael Symon closing several Cleveland-area restaurants, including Lola Bistro downtown

But now with mask mandates going away and all health orders expiring on June 2nd, so many restaurants are eager to make up for losses. 

The big problem? They can’t find enough staff to make that happen.

"The number one issue in the industry quickly went from surviving, to now I don't have enough people to service all the business I have," explains John Barker from the Ohio Restaurant Association. "And it’s number one. In fact, in our newest survey we just got back: 8 our of 10 restaurateurs say their number one issue is not having enough staff."

The hiring signs are up, but so far restaurants are still falling short. Many of them are changing their hours and which days they’re open to be able to maximize profits and the quality of service you get.

In terms of when restaurants will be back to normal, meaning when they will be able to make up for the losses and debt incurred during the pandemic, it won’t happen until 2023 for most. That's if they’re even able to survive that long.

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Editor's Note: The below video is from a previously published story