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Ohio plans a staggered reopening for restaurants, but they won't look the same

LaRosa’s president advised governor on reopening
Posted at 6:25 PM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 19:18:15-04

CINCINNATI — Ohio restaurants will soon open their dining rooms and patios to customers once again, but prepare to see some big changes if you decide to go out.

On Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered Ohio’s restaurants re-opened in shifts. Places with tables and chairs outside can seat diners starting May 15, and all other restaurants can reopen May 21.

MORE: Taking a 'calculated risk,' Ohio will reopen salons, bars, restaurants

The new rules for reopening include:

  • Restaurants must post signs at front doors that list coronavirus symptoms.
  • Tables must be six feet apart.
  • Restaurants can require customers to wear masks.
  • Restaurants can seat groups of 10 or less, but expect to see plexiglass or a barrier between them and others.
  • Servers will deliver buffet and salad bar orders to tables.
  • Customers must self-police who's too sick to stay.

All of this comes through recommendations from a list of health advisers and restaurant leaders, including Michael LaRosa, president of Cincinnati’s largest family pizzeria LaRosa’s.

"I feel confident that the decision we made by this very diverse team that included the health department are in the best interest of our guests and our team members,” LaRosa said.

LaRosa said his 65 Tri-State restaurants saw business cut by a third due to the dining room shutdowns.

While curbside service kept wait staff working, LaRosa president advised DeWine, whose new plan to reopen restaurants allows a rise slower-than-dough.

At restaurants, cashiers will not wear gloves, and cooks won't wear masks. LaRosa says the governor's advisory group debated both, but they believe good hand-washing and sanitizing routines are safer.

While he hardly expects a quick rebound, family history gives him hope. Fire wiped out pizzeria patriarch Buddy LaRosa's first location, and when insurance refused to pay, he was almost forced to close. But generous neighbors and high school athletes stepped in to help the family restaurant reopen in just 29 days.

"This is a very similar crisis,” Michael LaRosa said. “It's scary, a lot of unknown territory. But you have to have a can-do attitude and you have to be willing to do things differently.”

LaRosa asks customers to be patient with these coming changes as workers have already begun moving things around inside their restaurants.