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2020 The Lost Year: Open And Closed

A tale of two restaurants, as one closed during the pandemic, another opened.
Published: Feb. 28, 2021 at 12:40 PM EST
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OREGON, Ohio (WTVG) - Inside Free-Way Restaurant in Oregon, the air is still and the room is silent. The owner, who preferred to not appear on camera, says he closed his longtime family-run restaurant during Ohio’s statewide shutdown in March of 2020. By early March of 2021, his restaurant had not reopened.

Free-Way Restaurant closed in March of 2020 after the statewide COVID shutdown. Nearly one year...
Free-Way Restaurant closed in March of 2020 after the statewide COVID shutdown. Nearly one year later, the Oregon mainstay has not reopened.(Tony Geftos)

“It’s not worth staying open, doing that much work and losing money,” he said, adding that the decision to close still weighs on him. “I feel like I’m letting people down, so.”

The restaurant has been a mainstay across from Mercy Health St. Charles Hospital since 1951, and in its current building since 1957. However, it was 2020 that put an end to Free-Way’s run.

The original Free-Way Drive-In opened in the 1950s.
The original Free-Way Drive-In opened in the 1950s.(Tony Geftos)

Meanwhile, in Sylvania Twp., across from the Target plaza on Monroe St., Bombay Kitchen opened March 20, 2020. The next day, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Ohio shut down in-person dining.

Bombay Kitchen opened March 20, 2020. The next day, the State of Ohio shut down in-person...
Bombay Kitchen opened March 20, 2020. The next day, the State of Ohio shut down in-person dining due to the COVID-19 pandemic.(Tony Geftos)

“So, we just had to stop everything and just survive,” says Rita Jassal, owner of Bombay Kitchen. She quickly adapted her business to cater to carryout. Jassal also started bringing meals to hospitals and fire stations, donating food to front-line workers. “Very important for us to just step up to the plate and just help out the communities.”

Throughout the pandemic, Bombay Kitchen has remained open, but it has not been easy, according to Jassal, who adds, “We’re just struggling and daily by daily surviving on our own.”

Because it opened in 2020, Jassal explains Bombay Kitchen did not qualify for the Payroll Protection Program. It required tax records from 2019. Jassal credits the outpouring of community support for keeping the doors to Bombay Kitchen open.

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