DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — The Ohio Restaurant Association says the pandemic forced nearly 15 percent of the state’s restaurants to close. Now, with health orders lifted, local restaurants and bars have been able to operate at full capacity and remove mask mandates.
“Really in the last 10 days, we’ve tracked this really carefully, we’ve seen what we believe is the best numbers in sales since 2019,” said Ohio Restaurant Association President John Barker.
Pandemic restrictions forced thousands of restaurants to close but the removal of restrictions have brought life back to the industry and economy. However, they believe the most powerful tool used to reopen Ohio is allowing residents to make their own choices when it comes to things like masks.
“If you want to wear one, the beautiful thing is if that’s important to you, you wear it,” said Barker. “If you’re an employee, you can wear it and there are people who are at high risk and all that but it gives people a choice and I think that’s made more people comfortable about the whole thing.”
Dayton’s Wheat Penny isn’t operating at full capacity yet, but says 90 percent of sales are from inside their dining areas and only 10 percent are through carry out.
“I think the restrictions lifting has given people the confidence to eat out but more vaccinated people feel comfortable coming into a restaurant like Wheat Penny,” said Co-owner & Chef Liz Valenti. “The staff is still wearing masks, tables are spaced and we’re not opening the floodgates right now.”
With Father’s Day around the corner, Brown Street’s Jimmie’s Ladder 11 wants to ensure the big event feels comfortable for patrons, masks or no masks.
“We’re still taking every precaution,” said General Manager Nick Brandell. “We’re Serve Safe Certified Licensed supplier of food, this is what we do for a living, we make sure things are clean. But, to be able to let people come in and see each other’s smile, it’s a huge deal and makes a difference and we’re just happy to see everybody back.”
Keep in mind, even with the mask mandate no longer being enforced each individual business has the choice to enforce their own.