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Local restaurant seeks public's help to stay afloat

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Kaleidoscopic, psychedelic rock band CHALAXY breaks in the stage opening night at The Block, a 'Boro eatery specializing in all things local, including food, art and music, Sept. 19, 2015. CAT MURPHY / The Murfreesboro Post

"The Block is in danger of closing," reads the first line of a heartfelt plea on Gofundme.com.

The "grassroots, gourmet eatery" located near downtown Murfreesboro on Broad Street has been giving back to the community since day one by providing local musicians and artists with a platform for their work and partnering with different nonprofits every month. "It means a lot to us," owner and chef Manny Santana told The Post back in September.

That month The Block's catering arm donated pulled pork crostini with apple slaw to Wine Around the Square, benefitting the Power of Pink. Since it was also Hunger Action Awareness month, they donated $1 for every burger sold out of the restaurant in September to Second Harvest Food Bank. The popular Murfreesburger, served with Batey Farms bacon, lettuce and tomato, comes on a brioche bun.

But a broken HVAC unit at the restaurant led to unexpectedly expensive energy bills over the summer and now a winter slump has business grinding to a halt, despite the farm-to-table eatery's high Google and Yelp ratings.

"I don't like asking for help. I'm just one of those people, I'm very hard headed," admitted Santana. But after a nudge from his team, he agreed to try. "They explained it to me as best they could: it's not a bad thing to ask for help."

"We know that that support's out there in the community, so we figured we might as well give it a shot," said Quinten Thornton, head of operations for The Block. "A closed mouth don't get fed."

Folks pitched in more than $500 in the first two hours of the fundraiser. After less than a week, they'd passed the halfway mark to their $5,000 goal.

"I've been to some excellent events hosted here and had fun at every one of them. The Block has helped out the community by bringing us all together, now it's time for us all to help out The Block," wrote donor Austin Bolton on the Gofundme page.

Different donation amounts offer different rewards and perks, including high-fives, hugs, respect, homemade soap, soap making lessons, drum lessons, invites to a private party and more.

"I've got a lot of hugs to give out," said Santana. "We're appreciative of it, though."

For a $1,000 donation, there's also something called "The Creeper," described as "the entire Quinten Thornton experience." What is it really? The two aren't telling.

"It's a surprise. Pay $1,000 and find out," said Thornton with a grin.

"I'd like to keep that one a mystery as well," said Santana.

The funds being raised will help where the restaurant has fallen behind, but The Block really needs a boost in business to keep the doors open.

"If the cash flow makes sense, and we can show that we've made a profit just for this month, we'll consider staying open," said Santana. He's imposed a Jan. 31 deadline on the fundraiser.

Local bands are also rallying around the beloved venue, playing shows there throughout the month starting with Rock The Block on Saturday, Jan. 14. Slider, Regular Of The Obscene, Evince and The After Effect will take the stage at 8 p.m. All proceeds from the $10 cover charge go to The Block.

For more information about upcoming shows visit the restaurant's Facebook page, call them at (615) 393-9935 or swing by 123 Southeast Broad Street Tuesday through Sunday.

Staff Writer Cat Murphy may be contacted at cmurphy@mainstreetmediatn.com.

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