Cleveland’s Little Italy businesses, hurt by loss of Feast, brace for uncertain future

The celebratory Mass will still be held on Saturday, but must be viewed online.

Cleveland’s Little Italy businesses, hurt by loss of Feast, brace for uncertain future

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of the popular Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy this year.

The popular event that’s a real money maker for businesses was supposed to start on Thursday, but now because of health concerns, that won’t be the case.

One business owner says the cancellation of the street festival this year is not only a loss for businesses, but for the college students he hires on his staff who could make one months of tips in four days.

The Feast of the Assumption has been held in historic Little Italy since 1898, and the street festival has been a cash cow for businesses and vendors. So the decision to cancel the event this summer will likely result in a noticeable loss of revenue for restaurants, bars and the popular bakery Presti’s. But they’re preparing for larger-than-normal crowds anyway.

Taylor Hartman works at Presti’s Bakery and tells 19 News, “I remember last year we had so many people come from all over the U.S. So I’m pretty sure even though we’re not having it, people will still show up because they’re going to expect something.”

In fact, as Presti’s was preparing plenty of Gelato and getting carry out boxes ready to go, a mother and daughter from New Jersey stopped in to the bakery. Margaret and Samantha Smith are disappointed The Feast is cancelled, but are supporting the Little Italy business anyway.

“We usually do and we drive in from New Jersey for it. I grew up in Cleveland so we’re definitely disappointed it’s not happening this year, but we understand why.”

The Ohio Restaurant Association says the industry is struggling overall during this pandemic. It’s predicted up to 54% of Ohio restaurants could call it quits in the next nine months.

But the co-owner of Guarino’s is thankful for a 102-year history that keeps customers coming back, even though one of it’s biggest money makes has been canceled.

“We’ve been fortunate we have a very large patio filling up every night. People want to eat out and they want to eat outside,” Phillips said.

The Mass celebrating the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary will still be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, but will be streamed online due to safety concerns.

The last time The Feast of the Assumption was canceled was in 1967 when a historian for the area says there was racial unrest.

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