After spending more than a year as front-line workers in the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitality and restaurant employees were given an opportunity to receive vaccines on Monday.
The Thunderdome Restaurant Group, which owns several restaurants in Over-the-Rhine and throughout Cincinnati, partnered with Mercy Health to bring 300 doses to OTR workers.
While working in a restaurant throughout the pandemic, employees were considered high risk for getting COVID-19, and many restaurants were forced to temporarily shut down for cleaning and quarantine through the pandemic.
"I think, as a human, you can't not think about it," said Dustin Doremus, who works at Jeff Ruby's. "There's been people that we know that have gotten it. But as long as we're doing the right thing, which in our restaurant, we always do the right thing, we're always staying safe. So that's all we can do."
Part of staying safe, for Doremus, was getting the COVID-19 vaccine. He and hundreds of other restaurant workers were able to get a vaccine on Monday through the partnered clinic.
The partnership comes as more people, particularly those who have already received their vaccines, have begun to head out to restaurants and public spaces many have avoided through the pandemic.
"We're seeing more interest in people wanting to dine at our restaurant," said Keegan Corcoran, beverage director at Jeff Ruby's. "It's really good to see a lot of people at least more comfortable going out again.
The uptick in business isn't just happening at restaurants like Jeff Ruby's. Thunderdome Group-owned Currito has seen longer lines and more filled tables, too.
"It's been getting way busier," said Natalie Ramirez, who works at Currito. "People are starting to go out more. People are feeling a lot safer, I think."
The larger draw to restaurants and bars is something Corcoran said is good for the industry, which, according to the National Restaurant Association, has lost more than 110,000 restaurants nationwide because of the pandemic.
"Restaurants and bars can use the -- no pun intended -- shot in the arm," said Corcoran. "We can use the business. There's a lot of people struggling right now in our industry."
Thunderdome Group said Monday's clinic hopes to help the Health Collaborative's effort to vaccinate 80% of the Greater Cincinnati region by July 4.