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Cleveland Restaurants Taking Different Approaches This Holiday Season

Local restaurants are considering service options as an unusual Thanksgiving holiday weekend approaches.

For some, the season offers an opportunity for additional revenue amid the pandemic, while others have opted to close as coronavirus cases surge.

Smokin’ Rock and Roll Food Truck and Catering had decent traffic throughout the summer months despite the pandemic, said co-owner Billy Morris, but that has slowed as the weather has grown colder.

“We’re basically shutting down, but we’re doing one big holiday feature for Thanksgiving,” Morris said.

The Bay Village-based business is offering a full, heat-and-eat meal for pickup, Morris said, which includes a turkey and traditional holiday sides. The special is bringing additional traffic, Morris said, and he plans to offer something similar for Christmas.

“This time of year, November, trucks get winterized and they get put away,” Morris said. “Because we’re doing this Thanksgiving special, we’re really busy right now.”

Le Petit Triangle Café in Ohio City is still allowing customers to dine in, either on the patio or at socially-distanced tables inside. The restaurant normally needs all hands on deck on Black Friday and through the post-Thanksgiving weekend, said co-owner Joy Harlor, but it’s hard to tell what this year will look like.

“You usually get through a really slow fall to make it to this time and kind of make it work,” Harlor said. “Well, we’ve gotten through the fall, but I don’t know what we’re going to expect now.”

November has been decent for the café, Harlor said, but she’s worried about a December slowdown. The café could shift to offer more fixed-price meals after the Thanksgiving weekend to be more carryout-friendly, she said.

“I just think, considering the numbers in the pandemic, people just aren’t going to be coming out, you know?” Harlor said.

The restaurant also will have holiday specials around Christmas, she said, but the decision-making process is stressful, Harlor said.

“I feel like all the burden is on the restaurant owners to try to come up with what to do, as opposed to the government taking the upper hand on it,” Harlor said.

Some restaurants have opted to close down altogether ahead of the holidays. Market Garden brewery’s restaurant, along with others on West 25th Street co-owned by Sam McNulty, are closing down until Cleveland and Cuyahoga County lift stay-at-home advisories.

Closing down shortly before Thanksgiving is another huge blow to business after an already rough year, McNulty said.

“This week, all the way through the new year is definitely the prime time in the hospitality industry,” McNulty said. “It’s especially painful to have to be closed, you know, for so many of us this is an exciting time of the year – family gets together, friends get together, folks from out of town return home.”

Market Garden’s beer sales are still going strong and the restaurants originally planned on keeping outside dining going all winter long, McNulty said. He expects many bars and restaurants won’t survive the pandemic and the full effects on the industry won’t be understood for another year, he said.

“Right now there is no bottom line for a lot of us in this industry. It’s survival mode,” McNulty said. “We’re definitely going to see a very different landscape out there in the restaurant world when the dust settles and the pandemic’s behind us.”

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