INDIANAPOLIS — "It's the most amazing crab legs in Indianapolis," said Judy Berry as she celebrated her birthday.
In the middle of a pandemic, appreciation from customers is music to a business owner's ears.
"Look at this bag of butter! Look at my fingers. Brother that says it all right here," exclaimed Bill Berry as he ate a dish from Crab99 in downtown Indianapolis.
Paolo Mendez is the general manager of Crab99 Bar and Restaurant, which sits just off Monument Circle in downtown Indy. The Cajun seafood restaurant, formerly known as The Boiling re-launched and moved to a bigger space just three months before the pandemic derailed downtown life.
"Last March this COVID thing happened, and yes our sales went low, but I think we are one of the luckiest restaurants here in Indianapolis that we are still alive and kicking," Mendez said.
As the list of now-out-of-business restaurants grows downtown, Crab99 is a success story. Mendez says the restaurant has survived the pandemic mainly because of their loyal customers, who say the restaurant has become a getaway from the darkness of 2020.
"Cameron, it gets me away from everything that's going on in the world. When you walk in this door, they give you an experience," said Jerry Wade.
While customers say they like what happens inside, Mendez says there's no ignoring what's happening on the streets. Which have been home to protests and on one weekend, riots. Mendez believes the weekend of riots had harder impact than the pandemic.
"It was more scary the riot days because we were totally shutdown," Mendez said.
Mendez says through the COVID and protest shutdowns, the business hasn't needed financial help, in part thanks to the landlord lowering rent, but even more due to loyal customers who literally kept the lights on. Mendez is now calling on the residents of the city to do the same for other businesses and help save downtown.
"Especially your favorite restaurant. You have to go back there and at least order some food to go let the restaurant survive," Mendez said.