Local restaurant, bar owners hope to regain profits from late hours

Public Health warn people that COVID-19 still remains a serious threat despite lifting of curfew



Ohio’s curfew has been lifted and some local bars and restaurants said they will immediately resume more normal operating hours because later-night sales are important to their bottom lines.

For the last three months, businesses had to close by 10 p.m. or ― more recently ― 11 p.m., which was a major blow to establishments that rely on food and drink sales that come long after dark.

Local operators and owners say the curfew cancellation means they are regaining some of their most profitable operating hours, and they insist longer hours, and later-night sales, won’t make the establishments any less safe.

“There is no doubt our guests should feel safe,” said Dan Apolito, co-owner of Archer’s Taverns in Centerville and Kettering and Stone House Tavern in Waynesville. “All of our team members wear masks, constantly wash and sanitize their hands and understand the importance of providing a safe environment for our guests.”

But public health officials and some community members say they hope getting rid of the curfew will not be misinterpreted as meaning COVID-19 is no longer a serious threat and people can throw caution to the wind while out dining or drinking.

“We still have very high incidence of COVID in the community,” said John Steele, public information specialist with Public Health ― Dayton & Montgomery County. “Though it’s been trending down, it doesn’t take much to reverse that trend and have it go up again.”

On Thursday, Ohio leaders rescinded a statewide curfew after hospitalization counts fell below 2,500 for a seventh straight day.

Curfew restrictions imposed in mid-November required Ohioans to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. every day.

The curfew was supposed to last three weeks, but it was extended multiple times as COVID-19 cases skyrocketed.

But after case levels subsided, curfew hours were reduced by one hour in late January, to start at 11 p.m. instead of 10. Curfew restrictions were removed completely late this week.

Friday and Saturday nights are some of the most lucrative and popular times for the Century Bar, said Joseph Head, co-owner of the renowned bourbon bar in downtown Dayton.

“Those are prime, prime hours for us on the weekends,” he said.



Since the curfew has ended, Century Bar probably will close by 1 a.m. during the week, but will be staffed until 2:30 a.m. on the weekends, Head said.

Head said later hours will be just as safe as earlier times, because staff and patrons will have follow all the same safety measures, and seating still remains at a fraction of its normal capacity, providing plenty of space between tables and customers.

Head also said later and longer hours also gives people additional time windows to visit the bar, which means they aren’t all competing for the same slots and aren’t rushing in for last call.

Most people who like to eat and drink later in the night, past 10 or 11 p.m., tend to be younger professionals and people in their 20s and 30s, which made the curfew feel almost like a “young person’s law,” he said.

Head said he thinks the 2020s soon will be like the roaring 1920s, and businesses will see foot traffic and sales snap back just as soon as enough people are vaccinated and COVID-19 is better under control.

“I think every weekend it’s going to be a little bit better,” he said.

Oregon Express, on East Fifth Street in the Oregon District, will now remain open on Fridays and Saturdays until midnight ― which were its pre-pandemic hours.

Friday and Saturdays are the establishment’s busiest days, and being forced to close early, especially at 10 p.m., meant missing out on sales and revenue, said Susan Bavaro, co-owner of Oregon Express.

The additional hour definitely will help, but it still might take time for customers to feel comfortable to come out and get back into their pre-curfew routines, she said.

Losing the curfew was a big step forward, and hopefully conditions will continue to improve so one day soon seating capacity and social distancing restrictions also can be eased, she said, noting her business is operating at about 50% capacity.

Bavaro said she thinks growing vaccinations and declining COVID-19 cases hopefully means the end of the crisis is on the way and people will feel more comfortable going out.

Bavaro said right now she’s not worried about overcrowding at bars in the Oregon District, and she believes the district will be in really good shape when it warms up and people can drink outside on the street.

Apolito said he’s optimistic that COVID-19 cases will continue to decline as more people receive the vaccine and the weather improves and people have opportunities to get out into the fresh air.

“We are working diligently to get back to as normal as possible,” he said. “We have seen tremendous support from our guests and their confidence and willingness to dine out should only improve moving forward.”

Even businesses that aren’t offering late-night hours hours are relieved the curfew is over, like TJ Chumps, which plans to keep its current operating hours, even though closing time is earlier than it was pre-pandemic.

The sports bar and restaurant ― which has four local locations― right now closes at 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 p.m. all other days.

But the curfew’s cancellation means staff don’t have to try to police guests to make sure they get out in time, said Blake Wright, corporate managing partner of TJ Chumps.

“We are in the hospitality business, so when our guests are here and having a good time, telling them they have to leave now, pull drinks at a specific time is a stress,” he said. “Also, any steps we can take to get back to ‘normal’ are more than welcome, even if they don’t impact our day to day business.”

Steele, with public health, said it’s possible people may let their guard down while drinking late into the night, increasing their exposure risk.

But he said the biggest concern about late night hours simply is that they give people more time to be around each other, increasing opportunities to spread infection.

“When you are out and about, try to limit your time and exposure to other people,” he said.

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