The back patio at Lily's Bistro
Photo: CONTRIBUTED
Photo: CONTRIBUTED

NOT SO FAST: Several local restaurants say ‘no’ to reopening — for now

Several high-profile Dayton-area restaurants are taking a wait-and-see approach to reopening their patios and dining rooms.

Gov. Mike DeWine and state health officials established a timeline last week for Ohio’s restaurants to reopen for patio service starting this Friday, May 15 and for dine-in service starting May 21, if restaurants follow social-distancing and health guidelines. But new cases of Covid-19 caused by the coronavirus are still being reported daily, and no one knows how skittish diners will be to come out to their favorite dining destination right away. And there’s the possibility of another spike in cases that could sabotage the “Responsible RestartOhio” effort.

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Some restaurant owners are going to stay on the sidelines, at least initially, when it comes to dine-in and patio service. And they took to Facebook to explain their decisions.

Emily Mendenhall, the founder of Lily’s Bistro in Dayton’s Oregon District, opted to focus on her carryout and delivery service for now.

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“This is a difficult decision, but due to numerous factors, it's the route we are choosing to go,” Mendenhall wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page. 

“One main factor is that service industry workers are notoriously under-insured or uninsured, and even though we are in the very small percentage of restaurants who offer employer co-paid health insurance, we do not feel asking employees to handle plates, glasses, utensils, or to interact more directly with guests, is ethically right,” she wrote. “And when we do open our patios, we will do so with regard to minimizing interaction and asking guests to clear their tables of disposable products. We will keep our interior closed to staff only, as it has been since March 21.”

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“We appreciate that other folks may reach different decisions, but we have to do what we think is best for our business, our staff, our guests and extended Lily's friends and family, and our community,” Mendenhall wrote.

El Meson co-owner Bill Castro and his family reached a similar decision to continue the West Carrollton restaurant’s focus on carryout and delivery.

“With an overwhelming sense of responsibility to our staff and customers, we will NOT be opening the patios on May 15 or indoor dining on May 21,” Castro wrote on Facebook. “Thank you in advance for your understanding that this is not a decision made lightly or quickly. Starting in late May or early June, we're excited to be offering special pop-up events that will encompass many different styles of cuisine from around the world. This will involve carryout from our food trucks.”

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Howard Mason, co-founder and managing partner of Sporty’s Taphouse & Grill in Harrison Twp., said his business will wait until June 4 to reopen.

“Our board of directors based this decision in part, on waiting to see if new cases and deaths surge in Ohio, and thus if the state of Ohio enforces another restaurant ban,” Mason wrote Monday on the Sporty’s Facebook page.

The owners of Thai 9 made it clear that it was a difficult decision to stay closed to dine-in service for now.

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“After much deliberating, talking, deliberating, talking and some more deliberating, we have made the decision to not open our patio or dining room for seating at this time,” the restaurant owners wrote. “Carryout will still be available. Please understand this is not an easy decision. The health of our customers and staff is more important to us than making revenue. The guidelines set in place to reopen will make it too difficult to give you the dining experience you have come to expect from Thai 9.”

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“We look forward to having the restaurant open in the near future.”

The Oakwood Club in Oakwood is among a few fine-dining restaurants that did not attempt to serve carryout after the March 15 order to shut down dining rooms. And Lance Stewart, co-owner of the restaurant, is still in no hurry.

“We will wait to reopen until we believe it is safe,” Stewart told this news outlet.

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