Local restaurant owners excited to open, but acknowledge ‘it is a new frontier’

Several Dayton-area restaurant owners expressed support for a state plan to reopen Ohio’s dine-in restaurants and bars under social-distancing guidelines and other restrictions over the next two weeks. And local hair-salon owners also welcomed news that the state will allow them to reopen under similar social-distancing restrictions next week.

But owners of small restaurants and salons say they’ll face some difficult financial decisions ahead, and business owners say they’re not sure how willing their customers will be to venture out as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

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Under the plan recommended by a statewide restaurant-and-health advisory panel and adopted by Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio’s restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen patios and outside dining on May 15 and dining rooms for inside dining on May 21, under restrictions and guidelines, some mandatory and some recommended, designed to ensure safety for workers and customers. Hair and nail salons and barber shops can reopen as soon as May 15.

“We finally have a date, and that’s fantastic news,” said Shanon Morgan, president of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association. “Of course, not every restaurant has a patio, so the May 15 date is not going to help some people. But this is a good first step, and it will allow restaurant owners to plan.”

Morgan said fully understanding and following the guidelines will be crucial to a successful reopening of the restaurant sector. Those guidelines state that restaurants must ensure a minimum of six feet between parties while dining or waiting for a table, and if that’s not possible, to utilize barriers or other protective devices. Restaurants also must ensure a minimum of six feet between employees, and if that’s not possible, utilize barriers and increase the frequency of surface cleaning, handwashing and sanitizing.

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Rather than restrict restaurants to a percentage of their original seating capacity – other states have used 50 percent of fire-code capacity, for example – Ohio will ask businesses to rework their floor plan to ensure social distancing under its six-feet-apart or physical-barrier rules.

Parties of 10 or less can be seated together, for example, but each group in the restaurant must be kept separated from other parties, either my distance or barriers. The restaurant advisory group said how that separation is achieved is up to the business. It could mean high-backed booths are used, or Plexiglas dividers could be installed.

Restaurants and bars will decide if customers will be required to wear masks in the establishment.

Credit: Dan Young

Credit: Dan Young

Dan Young, the CEO of Young’s Jersey Dairy just outside of Yellow Springs, was part of the advisory panel that presented recommendations to the governor. He said he was pleased with the experience and that the panel included people who work in every aspect of the restaurant industry.

The timeline gives restaurants nearly two weeks to decide how to open to dine-in customers, train staff and for the supply chain to resume, Young said.

“It will take a minute to get that going again,” he said.

The business sits on 122 acres some of which is used for crops, animals and a list of still closed attractions that includes batting cages and a putt-putt course. Young said he has the space to operate safely.

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“We can spread them (picnic tables) out,” Young said. “ We could put the tables so far apart that you can’t see other people.”

Young, a former chairman of the Ohio Restaurant Association board who has also been active with the National Restaurant Association, said like other restaurant owners, he asks that customers be patient.

“We are going to go slow, making sure we get this right,” he said.

The dairy store which serves food in a full-service dining room will reopen first. The room typically holds 140 to 150. About half will be allowed in the room to maintain six feet of distance between guests, Young said.

Staff members will wear facemasks. “We listen to our staff and they feel better wearing face masks,” he said.

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Young said guests are encouraged to wear masks, but they will not be required to do so.

“You can’t eat cheese curds or lick ice cream with a mask. That would be a mess,” he joked.

Restaurant size appeared to be a factor in how owners viewed the reopening plan.

In 2018, Sofi Kinde relocated Nanyea Café, an Ethiopian restaurant named for her grandmother, from 5214 N. Main St. in Harrison Twp. to its larger current location at 6129 N. Dixie Drive, also in Harrison Twp.

Before the pandemic, Kinde said she could serve up to 35 diners in the eatery. But due to the six-feet social-distancing requirement, Kinde estimated she would be able to serve only about six people in the dining room at a time.

“It’s going to be very hard. My place is very small,” she said. “I just want everything to be over. It’s been stressful. For me going from a small cafe to a larger one, I worked really hard. I can’t see everything going down the drain.”

Kinde said customers have been supportive, and she will likely continue carryout-only through the week and open for dine-in on Fridays and Saturdays. She will explore ways to use the restaurant unused patio space, but said it likely does not make financial sense to open her dining room during the week.

“A question would be will I be able to stay in that business forever,” she said. “How long is it going to be like this.”



Local restaurateur Dan Apolito praised the restaurant advisory group’s work, saying it “made some very good decisions,” and said he supported other aspects of the governor’s announcement.

Apolito, co-founder of the Archer’s Tavern locations in Kettering and Centerville and of the Stone House Tavern in Waynesville, said, “Allowing owners and operators flexibility to reorganize dining areas for responsible social distancing, as opposed to limits based off of posted capacity, is a smart decision.”

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“Allowing parties of up to 10 people who arrive as a group is also an indication that the committee understands that restaurants are a place to gather with friends and family,” Apolito said. “Although group size is limited, allowing family to dine together will help us feel a bit more normal for the immediate future.”

“Our team members have been extremely patient, and they are very excited to get back to work and serving our guests,” Apolito said.

The two Archer’s locations and the Waynesville tavern will open for curbside pickup for lunch and dinner on Monday, May 11, and they will open their dining rooms and patios on May 26, Apolito said.

Jimmie’s Ladder 11 managers Brad Hull and Nick Brandell said steps will be taken to reopen the eatery located at 936 Brown St. as efficiently and safely as possible.

“Everyone is going to have to make adjustments. It is a new frontier for all of us,” said Brandell, whose family owns the business.

Pre-pandemic, the restaurant’s two patios and upstairs and downstairs dining rooms could seat as many as 170 people.

He said the restaurant hopes to come up with a seating strategy that ensures safety and adequate customers per server.

“We have plenty of room, so that we can do a decent business for our servers to come back,” he said. “We don’t want anybody to come back to work and be in a situation where they are struggling.”

Jennifer Dean, co-owner of Mudlick Tap House in downtown Dayton, said she is “excited to welcome back all of our friends and guests,” and she praised the leadership of the governor and state healthy officials in approving the reopening plan.

“We have already laid out our floor plan for both floors that adhere to the guidelines set forth by Gov. DeWine,” Dean said. “Luckily, we have a lot of space and can easily spread people out to ensure safety and social distancing.

Mudlick will continue operating its curbside pickup and delivery service “for those guests that are not ready to dine in,” Dean said.

Karen Wick-Gagnet, co-owner of Coco’s Bistro on Warren Street just south of downtown Dayton, said she is “super-excited” about the prospect of reopening, and also has already started making changes to the restaurant’s dining room.

“I’m blessed, because we have a large building,” Wick-Gagnet said. Coco’s includes two private dining rooms in addition to the main dining room, and two patios,

Still, she acknowledged that she and other restaurant owners don’t know quite what to expect when dine-in services return.

“It’s hard to project what it will be like, because people are nervous, people are scared,” she said. “We’ll be taking every precaution that we can. We want everyone to be safe.”

Credit: Photo by Amelia Robinson

Credit: Photo by Amelia Robinson


Shawon Brown Gullette says customers inquiring about a reopening date began ringing the phones at her salon, Infinitee Salon & Spa on Salem Avenue, off the hook the day the governor announced in March that salons would be closed.

The calls never stopped.

Gullette said she is happy her salon’s seven stylists and nail technicians will once again be able to serve clients and generate an income, but she said the many in the industry will need more guidance from the Ohio Department of Cosmetology on protocol on how to proceed.

“I am excited, but I want to make it safe and make sure we are doing it the right way,” Gullette said. “The way I’ve done hair for 30 years is over.”

Gullette, who as a trichologist has paramedical experience, has already begun to come up with procedures for her businesses and plans to help others.

Salons will have to evaluate everything from distance between hairdryers to appointment booking to ensure proper spacing between customers, she said.

“There is not enough room in some salons to have six feet between stations,” Gullette added. “Sometime people look at the financial aspect, but it is really safety. We have to make that the priority.”

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A lot is still not known about coronavirus, she said adding that even the most professional hairstylists may find themselves ill-equipped to deal with a pandemic outside of their realm of understanding.

“Education is key with this,” she added. “There is a level of understanding the virus.”

Infinitee’s customers and staffers will be required to wear masks, and no visitors will be allowed to wait with customers during appointments, she said.

“We will not serve people without wearing a mask, and we will not serve people who are without masks,” she said.

Gullette said she is also preparing her staff for the likelihood that restrictions mean they will not be able to serve as many customers as they did before.

The situation at each salon will be different because each salon is set up differently, she said.

Credit: Photo: contributed by Brent Johnson

Credit: Photo: contributed by Brent Johnson

Brent Johnson, the co owner of Square One Salon and Day Spa said he and his partners are eager to bring their 204 employees back at their six locations in the Dayton area and Columbus.

“And I am looking to hire,” he said.

The idea of reopening is overwhelming and exciting, Johnson said.

“We’ve missed over 3,500 appointments since we closed,” he said. “I know that phone is going to blow up.”

Johnson said stylists stations were six feet apart before the pandemic, and Square One built a reputation partly on good hygiene practices and customer care.

He said the salon will operate with caution, but overall, he feels prepared.

“We are up for the challenge,” Johnson said. “Clients and staff were the priority before and they continue to be the priority.”


We asked people on our Facebook page if they will go out to restaurants when they reopen and what precautions they want to see. Here’s some of what they had to say:

Frank Lovash: We will go once they are open. As for precautions really just having hand sanitizer and sanitizing tables, seats, condiments, napkin holders.

Jo Greenwell Rolston: No, I am following the CDC guidelines 14 days of decline.

Mary Ann Parsley: No masks for servers or cashiers no gloves.you know they aren't going to go wash their hands after every order.i have to wear a mask but they don't. No thanks.

Sam Spence: I'm just going to keep getting carryout. I still dont feel comfortable eating inside.

Tammy Kreitzer: I will go! I've been an essential employee so I don't really care what precautions there are.

Nan Howich-Day Mires: No. Will do carry out like we have been doing but will not be going to a sit down restaurant any time soon as a high risk person and before this virus we went out and ate more than once a week!

Joseph Moorman: Let the restaurant owners open both inside and out at the same time. Would love to know the reasoning they are scheduled week apart.