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Ohio Customers Venturing Out To Restaurant Patios After Two-Month Coronavirus Break

Nick Evans
Shaun (left) and Molly Lentini in their masks at BrewDog in Franklinton.

It wasn’t exactly patio weather in Columbus on Friday afternoon, but that didn’t stop restaurants from opening outdoor dining for the first time under Ohio's new guidelines.

Despite the windy weather and threatening grey clouds, Shaun and Molly Leniti decided to risk the thunderstorm and visit BrewDog’s rooftop patio in Franklinton, which has been closed since Ohio shut down restaurants in March.

“We noticed a break in the radar for the storm so we seized an opportunity,” Shaun said with a grin. “I was scrolling through Facebook and saw BrewDog was opening up and measures they were taking, so I felt comfortable coming out, and grabbing a beer. This is our first time out since, what? Two months now.”

Each table has a plastic squirt bottle with hand sanitizer written in marker along the side, and areas are cordoned off to keep people from milling around.

“Yeah, we have definitely missed draft beers on patios now that it’s getting warm out,” Molly added. “So we were very excited this morning."

Both Shaun and Molly had yellow surgical style masks hanging from their ears as they finished off beers and a pretzel. Molly, a respiratory therapist, said she hopes people take mask recommendations and other safety measures seriously.

The patio was sparse, but a host explained the bar is fully reserved Saturday from 4 p.m. on. He said they’re slating parties for two hours, and they held back a few tables for walk-ins.

Other restaurants, like Condado Tacos, are restricting their patio space to diners with reservations.

Molly and Shaun readily agreed they might feel differently visiting a crowded bar or restaurant.

“In the past, if you’d go up to a bar and you wanted a seat at the bar, you could just hover behind waiting for an open seat, and I don’t think that’s going to work anymore,” Shaun said. “So if it’s full just move on and find a different place to go to.”

Carolina Gutierrez on the Arepazo patio in the Brewery District.
Credit Nick Evans
Carolina Gutierrez on the Arepazo patio in the Brewery District.

In the Brewery District, Arepazo owner and operator Carolina Gutierrez sat alone outside on the patio.

“No, we haven’t had anybody yet,” she said through a black mask with a smile printed on it. “We, in our Gahanna location, I got a picture of two guys that came over and ate. But I think we are prepared, we know this is going to take time. We know this is going to take time and we just have to be ready for it.”

She said the restaurant is doing pretty good business since re-opening for carryout May 1, after taking a five-week hiatus.

With restaurant re-openings restricted to patios, for now, not everyone can cash in yet. But a recent Ohio Restaurant Association survey found that almost 90% of restaurants plan to open their dining rooms when they get the go-ahead next Thursday or shortly thereafter.

Gutierrez counts herself among those. She says they’re ready to get customers back in the dining room and she believes they’ve taken the necessary precautions to keep them and her staff safe.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.