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Coronavirus In Ohio: Restaurants And Salons React To DeWine's Reopening Plan

Comune is a restaurant on Parsons Avenue in Columbus.
Courtesy of Comune
Comune is a restaurant on Parsons Avenue in Columbus.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced plans Thursday to reopen restaurants and hair services this month. Salons and barbershops can open on May 15, and restaurants can begin outdoor dining the same day. Indoor dining can begin a week later, on May 21.

Business owners collaborated with health workers to come up with the best practices to open back up. Restaurants and bars will have to make adjustments to their floor plans for social distancing. Parties are limited to 10 people or less, and tables need to be six feet apart or have a physical barrier between them.

Some employees will be required to wear masks, others will not, and owners have the right to ask customers to wear a mask if they deem that necessary.

DeWine says he wants to move forward carefully, so Ohio won’t have to pull back again. As he's said before, DeWine called the process a marathon, not a sprint.

“If we take things for granted in a month, six weeks from now, seven weeks from now, things are not going to go the way we want them to go,” DeWine says.

Joe Galati is the co-owner of Comune, a small restaurant on Parsons Avenue. Galati says he’s not going to open right away, but instead will consider starting back in June.

As a small restaurant, Galati says it will be difficult to figure out how to do social distancing while making ends meet.

“If you assume that you’re only doing half the amount of seating, how do you make that work in a business sense, if your business running at full stream is probably just able to pay the bills and have a little bit left over," Galati says.

Restaurants like Comune can begin outdoor dining before they reopen indoor.
Credit Courtesy of Comune
Restaurants like Comune can begin outdoor dining before they reopen indoor.

When Comune does resume dining, Galati says he won’t be afraid to ask people to leave if they aren’t abiding by their rules.

“Restaurants and bars are highly regulated," he says. “We’re meant to deal with how to stop the spread of foodborne illnesses. So the odds of our staff giving anyone something is low, we’re more likely to get something from guests.”

Barbershops and salons will also have to make accomodations when they reopen.

Melanie Guzzo, the owner of Virtue Salon in Clintonville, says they are aiming to reopen May 18. Her business already has plans in place to protect clients and staff.

“We do have barriers that we ordered that are vinyl, waterproof, and disinfectable, that hang from the ceiling in between our stations,” she says. “Our stations can’t be moved, so we did that to help with social distancing.”

Guzzo says they will take client’s temperatures and ask them to wear masks. Staff will wear masks, too.

Virtue Salon in Clintonville has been closed during the coronavirus pandemic, and plans to reopen May 18.
Credit Cindy Gaillard / WOSU Public Media
WOSU Public Media
Virtue Salon in Clintonville has been closed during the coronavirus pandemic, and plans to reopen May 18.

She says the financial hit of being closed coupled with the costs of having to start up again is going to be really difficult on salons.

“There’s tons of little bills that keep adding up,” she says. “Not to mention we had to place several thousands of dollars of orders for product and hair color and PPE, in order to be ready for reopening, and that’s hard when you have no income.”

While some Republicans say the economy should be reopened all at once, Democratic lawmakers have argued for a slower approach.

DeWine acknowledged the risks involved in relaxing restrictions.

“As we open up the economy, let me just state the obvious and not shy away from it: The risk is up,” he says. “The more contacts that we have, the more than we do, the more risk there is.”

DeWine says he expects the numbers of infections to rise because of this. It’s a gamble, he says, and one Ohio is only able to make because of the precautionary measures already taken to flatten the curve.

What questions do you have about Ohio's coronavirus response? Ask below as part of our Curious Cbus series._

Copyright 2020 WOSU 89.7 NPR News. To see more, visit WOSU 89.7 NPR News.

Paige Pfleger is a reporter for WOSU, Central Ohio's NPR station. Before joining the staff of WOSU, Paige worked in the newsrooms of NPR, Vox, Michigan Radio, WHYY and The Tennessean. She spent three years in Philadelphia covering health, science, and gender, and her work has appeared nationally in The Washington Post, Marketplace, Atlas Obscura and more.