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Downtown, OTR restaurants rally to help staff, community in need

‘It’s an incredible thing’
Posted: 11:32 PM, Mar 19, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-20 17:19:45-04

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CINCINNATI -- Several restaurants in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown are lending a helping hand to out-of-work staff and community members in need amid closures due to coronavirus.

Restaurants like Mita’s on Race Street, for example, are staying open later in the evenings to provide meals.

“It’s been wild,” said owner Jose Salazar. “I’m from New York, I was around for Sept. 11. It’s reminiscent of that.”

While he was in culinary school during the events of Sept. 11, 2001, he helped survivors, workers and the community any way he could.

“(It) has an eerie, similar feeling to that,” Salazar said.

So he says it's "amazing" to lend a hand to folks in the community during a time of uncertainty.

“So often the community comes and supports us, they come in and dine with us, help us fulfill our dreams. Now we’re able to help give back to those in need.”

Across town at Pleasantry OTR, which has moved to carry-out orders only after the state ordered all dining rooms closed, co-owner Daniel Souder faces a harsh reality: all but two of his employees have to go on unemployment benefits.

Then, inspiration struck Tuesday night as management came up with a plan to help employees and give to others struggling.

“We’re going to open it up to the public to buy $10 for a meal,” Souder explained. “We prepare, then drop off to various hospitals across the city for the people fighting this virus on the front lines -- the people risking their health, their lives to do the job they set out to do.”

By the time he woke up Wednesday morning, the team had sold 180 meals, and by now they’ve sold over 400.

“It’s an incredible thing,” Souder said.

The restaurant dropped off meals to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Wednesday, something that gives Souder the “inspiration to want to come in to work.”

“We’re still hoping to get by as a restaurant,” he said. “We don’t know what the future will hold. I don’t think anyone does, but to be able to provide some good, and see the community really rally around is an inspiration for sure. It keeps us going.”