PORT CLINTON, Ohio — This pandemic has been devastating to so many businesses and communities. But one northwest Ohio city says in some ways, it's actually better off because of it.
"Meals on Madison" was a solution to make sure downtown Port Clinton bars and restaurants could remain open during the pandemic lockdown. What started as an improvisation was so successful that it may now become an annual fixture.
"The best year we've ever had! It was like a happy accident, a perfect storm," said Bill Rigoni, owner of Northern Exposure.
Last year, Meals on Madison became an instant success for Port Clinton as lunch and dinner crowds had a safe outdoor space to eat their meals or enjoy a drink with a block of Madison Street shut down to traffic.
So the local chamber acted on that success and added more tables, activities and eventually a concert stage.
That additional foot traffic rolled over from the bars and restaurants to all of the small businesses in downtown Port Clinton.
"Keeping in contact with all of our businesses that had a record summer when we thought it was going to be the worst Summer was amazing," said Nicole Kochensparger, program manager for Main Street Port Clinton.
Another positive is that Mayor Mike Snider says all of the vacant buildings in this stretch of downtown are now sold and all but one available downtown liquor license has been purchased.
Which is why Main Street Port Clinton has decided to host Meals on Madison again this year and make it even bigger.
"A lot of buildings have changed hands and there's more cool stuff coming downtown. And I think we're about to boom. I think downtown Port Clinton is going to thrive. Just from that little tiny closure of the road," said Bill and Kelly Rigoni.