Northeast Ohio party centers pivot to feed the community, keep people employed amid event cancellations

Local event spaces shift to curbside take out and taps in to their experience in catering to survive the shut down.

Northeast Ohio party centers pivot to feed the community, keep people employed amid event cancellations
La Vera Party Center, forced to cancel or reschedule all upcoming events, is now offering curbside family packs. (Source: Christine Hibbs)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -Party Centers like La Vera in Willoughby Hills exist on catered events, like weddings. But when the shelter in place order went into effect they had to change their approach.

Anthony Verdone, partner La Vera Party Center says they’ve already had to reschedule 20 large scale events, like weddings, first communion parties and proms.

They’re currently rescheduling six to eight months out, and holding on to deposits is keeping them in business.

“Everybody is understanding of the situation," Verdone said.

To avoid layoffs, they shifted gears and tapped into their experience with take-out catering.

“We were able to pivot and take it down and scale it from 100 to four or five people,” said co-owner, Carl Santagata.

They now offer curbside service on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and occasional Saturdays.

They’re doing well, getting 200-300 orders per night.

Santagata said the community has come out in a huge way to support them.

“The community has been unreal," said.

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This week they served 1000 portions of chicken Parmesan in a family pack on Wednesday night.

They are able to keep their full time staff on salary and their part time-staff members are pooling an average of $650-$700 in tip money.

“They’re making $100 in two hours in tips,” he said.

The family dinner night did so well that Santagata is working on a higher end “Date Night” options for every other Saturday.

“Couples go out on Saturday night. They can’t do that now. We’re trying to help people with some necessary ‘alone’ time," Santagata said.

Lago East Bank staff prepares to go orders.
Lago East Bank staff prepares to go orders. (Source: Fabio Salerno)

The Salerno Group had to lay off roughly 450 people between Lago, Lago Custom Events, TownHall Ohio City, TownHall Columbus, which was days away from opening, and Banditos in Myrtle Beach.

Director of Operations, Brendan Kearney, says they’re using social media to pump up their carry-out sales.

“Lago is grinding it out. We’re doing 50-75 orders per day. In terms of our normal operating sales we’ve faced a drastic drop,” he said.

Lago Custom Events, the event segment of their business, took a big hit, with a lot of corporate events cancelled up until May.

“Thankfully we haven’t hit wedding season yet. We haven’t had any cancellations but have been working through some rescheduling as some approach. We’re lucky to have amazing brides and grooms that we have built outstanding relationships with. We’re committed to giving them the wedding that they’ve dreamed of,” he said.

Those who are hurting, Santagata said, are the non-profits who had to cancel fundraisers.

“Three thousand people worth of fundraisers were cancelled,” he said.

He says an upcoming fundraiser for Lake County Foster children usually raises $50,000-60,000.

In those cases no money was exchanged between La Vera and the non-profits, but no money will be raised either.

Food service workers from Mayfield Schools get brown bag meals ready for children during forced closure.
Food service workers from Mayfield Schools get brown bag meals ready for children during forced closure. (Source: Mayfield Schools)

La Vera also donated 800 boxes of cereal, 650 apples and 1,000 French toast portions to Mayfield Schools to distribute to children in need.

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