Here’s what social-distance dining looks like in one local restaurant

HIckory River Smokehouse, a barbecue restaurant in Tipp City, has already made changes in its dining room to accommodate social distancing as it gears up to reopen on May 21.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Hickory River Smokehouse in Tipp City removed tables, build a center wall for social distancing

One local restaurant got a head start on the dining-room social-distancing and barrier requirements that state officials say must be completed before dining rooms can reopen starting on May 21.

"We wanted to jump on this ahead of time, so we looked at what FDA and CDC guidelines were suggesting and started making changes," Dan Davis, co-owner of Hickory River Smokehouse in Tipp City, told this new outlet this morning, May 8.

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Davis installed a wall in the center of the restaurant’s dining room to help create the proper table spacing, and removed some tables and chairs. All tables are now six feet apart or more, or separated by a solid barrier.

“We’re going to have to put a lot of stuff in storage,” Davis said.

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Plexiglass has been installed to provide a barrier between employees and customers, and floor markings every six feet will help enforce social distancing in the restaurant’s cafeteria-style order line.

As a result, the barbecue-themed restaurant at 135 S. Garber Drive in Tipp City is on track to open on the first day Ohio dining rooms will be allowed to reopen, on May 21, Davis said.

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Hickory River has been serving customers via carryout in recent weeks, and added online ordering and curbside pickup to better accommodate diners after the coronavirus pandemic shut down dining rooms on March 15.

The restaurant had 26 employees before the pandemic struck. It was able to keep 12 in the weeks following the shutdown of dine-in services, and added four more after online ordering and curbside pickup was offered.

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“We hope to bring those 10 remaining employees back, plus a few more,” Davis said, because of the additional cleaning and sanitizing that will be taking place.

Davis acknowledged that he’s not expecting large crowds to want to come out right away in the days immediately following May 21. But he’s optimistic for the future.

“We’re anxious to get back to some kind of normalcy in our dining room,” Davis said. “I’m still going over the state’s mandatory guidelines and the recommended best practices, and we intend to go above and beyond what is required. We’re trying to do the right thing for our customers and our employees.”

The Tipp City restaurant, which opened in 2006, is the only Ohio location of Hickory River Smokehouse, which has four restaurants in Illinois. Dan and his wife Maria Davis purchased the Tipp City franchise in 2011.

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