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A Wisconsin restaurant owner is using his own money to help struggling local restaurants during the pandemic.
Adolfo Melendez, owner of Tex-Mex restaurant El Mezcal in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, has bought more than $2,000 in gift cards to restaurants in his community to raffle off to his customers.
“If you help one person and another person helps another, that will help a lot,” he told CNN affiliate WKOW.
As of December 1, 2020, more than 110,000 eating and drinking restaurants across the country have closed temporarily or for good as a result of the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association.
“There’s probably 35% of the restaurants that keep struggling a lot here,” Melendez told CNN.
Melendez said he got the idea to help his fellow restaurant owners after a local realtor company helped his restaurant at the beginning of the pandemic.
“They did something where people voted for their favorite restaurant and I got second place so they bought $300 in gift cards from me,” he said. “Right after that I was like I’ll probably do something similar.”
At the end of last year, he began to buy gift cards from local restaurants in his community and raffling them off to customers on his restaurant’s Facebook page. Winners received $20 gift card to a local restaurant.
According to WKOW, the receiving restaurants said they were thankful for Melendez’s generosity, and know that surviving the pandemic means working together.
“In these Covid times, it’s very important to eat local, small mom and pop shops,” Pete Ananiadis of Olympia Family Restaurant told WKOW. “He understands that, and for all of us right now it’s a tough time.”
Melendez says it’s important to help keep small businesses open during the pandemic because they are the staples of the community.
“That’s part of what keeps us alive,” he said. “You can go to Applebee’s, or you can go to Pizza Hut but it ain’t the same like when you go to this little diner or pizza joint.”