Grant Park community comes together to try to save beloved restaurant

Loyal customers helping family owned restaurant stuggling amid pandemic

ATLANTA — Many small and family-owned restaurants around metro Atlanta are holding on for dear life as the pandemic enters its 11th month.

But in a growing number of instances, loyal customers are trying to raise money to help.

Channel 2′s Berndt Petersen was at Ziba’s Bistro in Grant Park, which has been open for a decade. Ziba’s owner Marcie Meirndorf said the restaurant has prospered until now, but the last 10 months have been a struggle.

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“If you can imagine losing 50% of your paycheck every 2 weeks for 10 months,” Meirndorf said. “That’s what we have been going through here at Ziba’s.”

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Now, the restaurant’s reserves are gone, and the restaurant itself could soon follow. Meirndorf said she’s trying to keep her spirits up, but it’s tough.

“I had been extremely ‘Pollyanna.’  Very positive. Very outgoing,” Meirndorf said. “And then I come to realize, ‘What am I going to do?’ We see bills piling up and piling up and we are getting farther and farther behind.”

But not if customer Aaron Lugo has any say in it. The Lugo family have been regulars at the restaurant since day one. Every birthday, holiday and graduation is celebrated at Ziba’s.

“We found this place and it immediately felt like our own kitchen,” Lugo said.

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Lugo said that just continuing to patronize the restaurant is not enough.

“You have to have the community come together to help these small businesses, because there’s not much else being done in order to save them,” hee said.

Lugo has set up a GoFundMe to help raise enough money to buy Meirndorf some time. Meirndorf was initially hesitant, but has since warmed up to the idea.

“When you look down that hole, that dark deep hole, there is a small ring of light I can see at the end of the tunnel,” Meirndorf said.

Meirndorf didn’t ask for the help, but she hopes her diners, who are her extended family, are able to come back.

“To see them come through the door for wine night or Sunday brunch before they went to a Falcons game, my heart is overflowing with gratitude,” Meirndorf said.

Similar crowdfunding campaigns have been set up to help other beloved Atlanta restaurants stay afloat. Recently, the community raised nearly $200,000 to save Manuel’s Tavern in Virginia Highlands.

A few weeks ago, Channel 2 Action News reported about a similar effort by patrons of the Colonnade Restaurant. That campaign has brought in more than $100,000.

Loyal customers of iconic Atlanta restaurant working to save it