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Restaurants give a voice to the challenges they face: Dough Mama and CLEAVER share their common struggles

Restaurants give a voice to the challenges they face: Dough Mama and CLEAVER share their common struggles

Sarah Sole

Every day, Dough Mama owner Perrie Wilkof loses money at her German Village and Clintonville locations. 

“It’s a very real possibility that we won’t make it through the pandemic,” she said. 

While she is trying to hang on, Wilkof said she’s heard from others in her industry who are also dealing with the specter of uncertainty she’s now facing. She predicts mass closings in a month to two months. 

“Any restaurant that is built for dine-in—they’re on their last legs,” Wilkof said. 

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Data underscores the dire situation many restaurants are in. 

According to an Ohio Restaurant Association poll conducted in mid-November, over 40% of restaurants believe that if they continue to operate at their current capacity, they will be forced to close within 6 months. A total of 81% of respondents said they don’t anticipate breaking even this year. 

Wilkof said many business owners like her are faced with the decision of whether to wait and see how things play out, or close before completely draining their bank accounts. Although Wilkof has saved money over the past five years, she doesn’t want to close up shop with nothing in the bank. 

“I’m not going to wait until that happens,” she said. 

While her German Village location just opened at 730 S. High St. in August and has a three-year lease, her Clintonville lease at 3335 N. High St. is up next July, Wilkof said. For that reason, the Clintonville space would be the one to close if only one of her two spots could remain open. 

She received a $25,000 PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan this spring, but it only helped out for about three months. What really needs to happen, she said, is approval of the Restaurants Act. 

That bill, introduced this summer, would temporarily fund the Federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Photo courtesy of CLEAVER Instagram page

Money is something that Tony Tanner, owner of CLEAVER and the Butcher & Grocer, also would like to see flowing toward those in the food service industry. Specifically, owners need a way to pay rent, he said. 

Something also needs to be done to help those who can’t stay open and can’t make ends meet, he said. 

“Any help is great,” he said. 

While funding is a point of contention, government restrictions and recommendations also pose challenges. Tanner said restrictions, so tight that no one dines out anymore, are killing businesses. 

CLEAVER, located at 1097 W. 1st Ave., reopened this August. At that time, Tanner decided to do ticketed dinner parties in place of typical restaurant service. But once the 10 p.m. curfew was recently implemented, sales for dinner parties just stopped, Tanner said. 

He’s since pivoted to offering take-home family meals. But though his restaurant is again open to walk-in guests, Tanner said no one is coming. 

His other business also faces challenges. The Butcher & Grocer, located at 1089 W. 1st Ave., lost three wholesale customers last week because they closed, Tanner said. Their bread supplier, Lucky Cat Bakery, is shuttered. 

Still, Tanner remains determined to persevere. 

“We’re still hammering away,” he said. “We’re not giving up.”

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