Restaurants reopen, boost economy; it couldn’t ‘have been any better’

Dayton-area restaurants and bars reported strong sales – and social distancing - this past weekend, reopening for outdoor-only seating under rules lessened by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to boost the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

One local chain with sites in Englewood, Fairborn, Huber Heights and Miamisburg said it topped sales from the same time last year – when it was operating at full capacity – while a Dayton eatery had brisk business Friday and Saturday.

Restaurants and bars following state safety guidelines is tied to Ohio’s economic recovery with the coronavirus, and social distancing “is absolutely the key thing,” DeWine said Monday.

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DeWine said health officials reported over weekend “it was clear that most restaurants were doing an amazingly good job. Most bars were doing a good job. But it’s clear that we had some outliers – ones who were just not doing what they should do.”

Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County “did not note any violations” of state guidelines during weekend visits to area restaurants and bars. But it is re-assigning “some staff to be able to respond to an increased number of complaints,” said Dan Suffoletto, public information supervisor.

Dayton-area T.J. Chumps locations were busy, with some customers waiting for seating for more than an hour, said co-owner Jim Dunn said.

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“All four of them did quite well,” he said. “Sales wise, I don’t see how it could have been any better.”

“When you compare the sales that we did this (past) Friday and Saturday with the sales that we did last year - with full open restaurants - we exceeded our sales that we did from the previous year,” Dunn added.

Coco’s Bistro in Dayton had taken more than 50 reservations before it opened Friday evening and “business was great for us,” said House Manager Adam Gilcher.

“We couldn’t have had a more successful outcome….It was good. It was strong,” he said.

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Ordinarily, this past weekend would have been the University of Dayton’s graduation, “a big weekend” for the restaurant, which would normally have “huge parties of families coming in,” Gilcher said.

Both T.J. Chumps and Coco’s said they abided state guidelines that included having tables six feet apart and other safety measures. For Coco’s, that meant reducing the number of patio tables from 25 to 14, making for longer waits, Gilcher said.

“It was evenly spaced out so the patio wasn’t too crowded at all,” he said. “We had reservations spaced out in between – about an hour and half to two hours” apart. “So it worked out very well.”

Dunn said some of his restaurants were able to block off parking areas to expand outdoor seating.

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“Some of our restaurants have bigger patios than others. But they all have patios,” Dunn said. “We took advantage of the areas that would allow us to expand our outdoor seating.”

Public health’s shuffling of schedules is aimed at “not just at bars and restaurants but at other business and retail locations,” Suffoletto said in an email.

“But with that being said we will not be able to be at all places at all times and encourage the public to avoid situations that they deem may not be safe,” he added.

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“We want to remind people that just because things are beginning to open, it does not mean that you should be visiting a lot of places,” Suffoletto continued. “It is still recommended that you avoid contact with others as much as possible. So keep shopping trips to a minimum and go by yourself when possible.”

Dunn said he wasn’t aware of any violations of state restrictions by either customers or staff returning to their jobs. Safety, he said, was heavily-emphasized.

“Now we went to a lot of effort. We have been preparing for it for quite a while,” he said, noting that all staff had undergone training.

“They all come in. They get their temperatures taken,” Dunn added. “They’re wearing their masks. They’re wearing their gloves where necessary. We’re cleaning the restrooms on a regular schedule.”

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