CLEVELAND (WJW) — As part of an effort to improve the lives of employees in the hospitality industry and make it easier for restaurants to keep their best workers, 10 Cleveland restaurants were awarded grants on Thursday.

During a presentation at the Asian Town Center, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb honored the owners of each of the 10 restaurants with a grant of $5,000 from the organizations High Road Restaurants, One Fair Wage and the Gund Foundation. The grants are designed to help the restaurants promote equity in hiring practices and to commit to a minimum wage of $15 per hour for their employees.

“That is not just about putting more money in people’s pockets — because that’s important, especially in this economy — but this is about dignity,” said Mayor Bibb.

The grants are part of a campaign to raise the minimum wage in Ohio for restaurant employees who receive tips from the current $5.05 per hour to $12.75 per hour starting in 2025 and $15 per hour by 2026.

One of the grant awardees was JB’s Grill Soul Food on Harvard Avenue. We asked the owner about the impact that higher minimum wages will have on the prices that restaurant customers will end up paying.

“My customers — they have nothing to worry about as far as our prices boosting up sky high,” Barbara Bradford-Williams told FOX 8 News. “Our meals are still going to be affordable. The only thing is we just need more business and more traffic.”

Supporters of the higher minimum wage point out that many restaurant employees could not qualify for unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What that meant for them is that they couldn’t afford food, they couldn’t afford to pay their rent and they couldn’t afford the basic human rights that we all deserve,” said Mariah Ross of One Fair Wage.

Mayor Bibb said the city will be analyzing the impact of the restaurant grants and the higher wages for employees as a case study for raising the minimum wage across the restaurant industry.

“We are optimistic that other restaurant owners will see the importance of this movement not just across Cleveland, but across Ohio and hopefully, one day, across the entire nation — because Cleveland is going to lead the way,” he said.

Here is a complete of the Cleveland restaurants that received grants: