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Local restaurants brace for shutdown, hold out hope for delivery success

Posted at 11:13 PM, Mar 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-16 11:38:21-04

CINCINNATI — Local restaurants in Cincinnati are bracing themselves after Governor DeWine ordered all bars and restaurants to end dine-in options beginning at 9:00 p.m. Sunday evening. The order stands until further notice, DeWine said.

Carry-out and delivery options are still permitted, DeWine said, and now local restaurants are working to convert manpower and menu options to accommodate for delivery options they may have never had available before.

"We need to save lives and make sure that we have viable communities to come back to," said Joanna Kirkendall, co-owner of Pleasantry and 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab in Over-the-Rhine. She said now she's working to convert her business overnight in order to offer delivery options she hopes will help keep crucial revenue coming in.

Jeremy and Bridgett Lieb own the Sacred Beast Diner in OTR. They said they saw less than half of their normal business through the week already, and that was while their dining room was still able to remain open. Now, they too plan to ramp up their carry-out and to-go options, but worry that might not be enough.

"If people want restaurants like ours to be around when this all passes, they need to buy food from us to-go now," said Bridgett Lieb.

Kirkendall said she's currently working to put together Pleasantry's first carry-out and delivery menu so she can continue to operate through the closure order. She said her husband is a pediatrician, so she knows the community's health and safety is the most important thing, but she wants communities in Cincinnati to know that ordering from local restaurants is important to keeping the local businesses alive.

"We want everybody to be healthy," said Kirkendall. "We want everybody to be safe. We just want there to be the same sort of thriving community to go back to once we get past this is all."

Jeremy Lieb said it will be difficult to ignore the bills that will continue to come in, despite their closed dining room. The Liebs have asked their employees to file for unemployment as soon as possible to be sure they don't go too long without a paycheck. Governor DeWine announced Sunday that he has plans to expand unemployment to cover people who can't work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During his speech Sunday, DeWine acknowledged the effect the order would likely have on the state's food and drink businesses, many of which spent weeks and significant portions of their budgets preparing for exuberant St. Patrick's Day celebrations March 17.

"I have some idea of that suffering, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am," DeWine said. "Our goal is for everyone to get through this. What we wish is that next St. Patrick’s Day, they’re going to be there and they’ll have the opportunity to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and not only that, but the opportunity to live their life and their American dream."

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also announced DeWine would sign an executive order extending some economic relief programs to businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic.

For workers:

  • It will enable workers without paid leave, workers whose workplaces are shut down and people quarantined by an employer or doctor to access unemployment benefits during the state of emergency.
  • It will eliminate the previously required one-week gap between leaving a job and filing for unemployment benefits.

For small business owners:

  • It will allow them to return unopened high-proof liquor purchased within the last 30 days. Husted said the state hopes this helps dull the blow of missing out on traffic-driven events such as St. Patrick's Day and March Madness.
  • It will allow them to apply for a low-interest disaster-relief loan of up to $2 million.