The Pine Club meal, including its signature onion rings. 2008 staff file photo by Lisa Powell
Photo: Lisa Powell
Photo: Lisa Powell

Local  restaurants announce reopening plans, but some big names aren’t — at least not yet

Pine Club, Jay’s, and many other eateries are choosing a wait-and-see approach, while others are ready to go

Several more high-profile Dayton-area restaurants are deciding to wait a bit longer beyond the May 21 lifting of a statewide shutdown order before welcoming their first guests into their dining rooms since mid-March.

Those who reached a different decision — and will go ahead and open their patios today, May 15 and their dining rooms on May 21, in response to Gov. Mike DeWine’s “Responsible Restart Ohio” program — are vowing to do it right, with protections in place for their employees and customers.

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Two of Dayton’s longest-running restaurants, The  Pine Club (1947) and Jay’s Restaurant (1976), have decided to pass on the initial window, and have not set dates to reopen. 

In an email, Karen Watson, general manager of The Pine Club, wrote, “When we do open, we want our staff and customers to feel safe and assured that it’s the right time for our circumstances.” 

Jay’s Restaurant owner Amy Haverstick said in an interview that she reached a similar decision, after some agonizing and sleepless nights of trying to decide what to do. She also has not set a reopening date. 

Thursday night, she posted her decision on the Jay’s Seafood Facebook page, saying, “We are waiting until we feel it is safe for our employees and guests to dine-in again. We do hope to reopen sometime in June.”

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Several more restaurants announced their decision to hold off for now on reopening their dining rooms on their social-media pages in the last few days.  They include Wheat Penny Oven and Bar in Dayton, Old Scratch Pizza in Dayton and Washington Twp., Sweeney’s Seafood Bar & Grill in Centerville, the Corner Kitchen in Dayton, The Winds Cafe in Yellow  Springs, the Sunrise Cafe in Yellow Springs, Sky Asian Cuisine in Kettering, Jimmie’s Ladder 11 in Dayton and Tokyo Sushi & Grill in Centerville. 

Several other restaurants are still reconfiguring their dining rooms to allow for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re also checking with their suppliers, before they set a firm reopening date. 

This news outlet reported earlier in the week that the owners of the Oakwood Club, El Meson, Lily’s Bistro, Thai 9 and Sporty’s Taphouse & Grill also will not be opening their dining rooms on the first day that restaurants are first allowed to do so.

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Here’s what Wheat Penny’s owners said about their decision on the restaurant’s Facebook page: 

“After thoughtful consideration, we have decided NOT to open our patio on May 15th and will also not be opening our dining room on May 21 ... . This was a very difficult decision for us, but we feel an overwhelming responsibility to both our staff and to you, our customers, to make sure we have all necessary and tedious details in place before moving forward.” 

“Our plan at this point is to continue offering our touchless online ordering and payment, with curbside pickup or delivery from one of our delivery partners, through at least Saturday May 23. By that time we hope to be ready to let you know our dine-in opening date.”

“We sincerely hope you all know we do not take this decision lightly. As much as we will miss serving each of you in person, we feel it is the right decision for us to continue for a little longer from afar.”

Old Scratch Pizza’s announcement was accompanied by a photo of a packed dining room that utilizes picnic-table-style communal bench seating, and said, “Oh, how we would love to return to this. We long for a time when we can again experience that good energy in our dining rooms, and see your smiling faces. We just don’t think we are there yet. We are hopeful that we will be again soon. Maybe not exactly the same, but still together.”⁣ 

Old Scratch Pizza is among a growing number of restaurants choosing to wait a bit before reopening following the coronavirus-pandemic statewide shutdown of restaurant dining rooms.
Photo: File photo by E.L. Hubbard

“Although Ohio has given the green light to opening our patios this weekend, and dining rooms next week, we have made the decision to continue to focus on Curbside Carryout for the near future. We would love to welcome you back, but we take our responsibility as an employer and social gathering place very seriously.”⁣ 

Sweeney’s Seafood Bar & Grill operations partner and co-owner Holley Thompson said in an email, “At this point, we expect to open both inside and outside dining in early June. In the meantime, we’ll continue to use our dedicated staff to clean, repaint and make all preparations to ensure we are doing everything possible to keep our employees and guests safe and well and that we’re abiding by both Ohio and CDC guidelines.”

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The Corner Kitchen’s owners wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page that they “want to ensure the best experience possible, and the starting point for us is the safety of our guests and our Corner Kitchen staff. We have determined that we are not there yet, so we will not be re-opening our patio on May 15 or indoors on May 21.”

Coco’s Bistro in Dayton and the Golden Lamb in Lebanon are among those restaurants that will open on the first dates they’re able, starting with patio dining today, May 15, followed by dine-in service on May 21.

“We do so with a keen eye on safety and the health of our patrons,” Coco’s co-owner Karen Wick-Gagnet wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “One of our many blessings is that we have a tremendous amount of space at Coco’s. Measures are being taken to assure suggested separation guidelines for both our customers and staff. Rest assured; we will follow every protocol as established by our partners at Montgomery County Health Department. Additionally, masks, wipes and hand sanitizer will be available at the entrance. ...”

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“We have taken great consideration for the staff we offered the option to return to work. All staff who have accepted the opportunity are being offered bonus hourly wages. The funding of our (Paycheck Protection Program) loan has afforded us a unique opportunity to raise these wages to assure each team member security and safety. All team members will adhere to policies and procedures put in place. We are working extremely hard to use this opportunity to restructure, reshape and be better, personally and professionally.” 

“We understand that we are all being asked to lead here. We understand that leadership looks different to all of us.”

Some restaurants announced plans late this week specific to today’s lifting of the ban on outdoor seating.

Carmel’s restaurant on the Dayton-Oakwood border has one of the most popular patios in town, but it will not be reopening today, owner Bob Byers announced on Facebook.

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“I’m just not comfortable we have everything in place to meet the state and local guidelines for your safety as well as ours,” Byers said. “I don’t want to disappoint  you — that has always been our motto here.” 

But many patios will open. TJ Chumps announced on Facebook it will open the patios at all four of its Dayton-area locations today. 

“Our #1 priority continues to be the health and safety of our patrons and employees, as well as continuing to make your TJ Chumps experience an enjoyable one,” owners wrote. “We thank you for your patience as we establish these new guidelines. We also cannot thank you enough for the overwhelming support during these last few weeks. We look forward to opening again and seeing the faces of our patrons that we’ve missed so much!”

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