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Ohio restaurant owners say they need government help with operating expenses

 Ohio restaurant owners and Ohio Restaurant Association leaders
Ohio restaurant owners and Ohio Restaurant Association leaders

Just over half of Ohio’s restaurants are telling their main lobbying group they don’t think they’ll be able to break even this year. They say business has not fully rebounded to the levels they experienced prior to the pandemic and they are unsure when that might happen.

The federal government made money available to restaurants last year. But John Barker, president and CEO for the Ohio Restaurant Association, says only a small percentage of the restaurants statewide that applied for federal revitalization funds actually got that money.

“In Ohio only 2,844 of the 8,228 applications were approved and funded," Barker says.

Meanwhile, restaurant owners say food and supplies costs are up and an employee shortage is also driving up the cost of doing business. Chris Crader, co-owner of GROW, the company that owns the Harvest Pizzaria chain, says the cost of goods and labor have each increased by 25% since the beginning of the pandemic.

"I can't raise pizza prices by 50%. You would think I am crazy if I tried to charge $30 for a 12-inch pizza," Crader says.

Crader says the problem is compounded by the fact that the restaurants that did get the federal funds have now put businesses like his that missed out at a competitive disadvantage.

Barker is asking Congress to replenish those restaurant revitalization funds. And he's urging local governments to extend outdoor dining permits permanently. As for the public, those in the restaurant industry say it's important for Ohioans to continue to order food and visit their local restaurants because they need the business now more than ever.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.