WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WDTN) – As Ohio restaurants wrap up their first weekend of outdoor dining since the COVID-19 shutdowns began, some staff members say they’re optimistic about business going forward.
Restaurants in Ohio were allowed to reopen Friday for patio dining. The state is permitting indoor dining to resume May 21.
Diners were back out on the patio of Carvers Steaks & Chops in Washington Township Sunday evening. Some were regulars before the shutdown.
“We were here the night that they found out they were closing restaurants for the pandemic,” said Sally Schell. “So it was kind of almost like bookends. We were here the last night, and now we’re here on one of the first nights.”
Schell told 2 NEWS she felt safe dining on the patio with the precautions being taken. Fortunately, she and her family got a table under an overhang.
“The rain’s kind of interrupted both evenings, but as you can tell, people are happy to be here, and we’re happy to have them,” said Josh Dotson, one of the managers.
Business was about average Friday for what they had been doing on Fridays over the last few weeks with carryout only, Dotson said. But Saturday brought a big spike.
“Last night was great,” he said. “We did three rounds of seating. Had good company, good conversation.”
In a statement released Saturday evening, the Ohio Restaurant Association said the vast majority of bars and restaurants followed proper protocols, but the group expressed concern about reports of businesses that did not comply with state orders.
Governor Mike DeWine told CNN Sunday morning enforcement action can be taken against businesses that do not follow the regulations.
“We did issue a citation for another bar in Columbus,” DeWine said. “And candidly, we’ve worked with the attorney general, David Yost, and we’re going to do whatever we have to do if these things are in fact [occurring] across Ohio.”
As Carvers prepares to resume indoor dining Thursday, Dotson told 2 NEWS he feels optimistic based on what he saw this weekend.
“I think it’s going to take some time to recover the damage,” he said. “But luckily we’ve done enough to survive and keep going. So I’m excited to see how we can get past it.”
The restaurant is considering expanding its outdoor dining area, Dotson said.
Carvers is still working to make a final decision about what to do about larger outdoor events the business holds during the summer, Dotson said.