'It means everything': Restaurant owners, diners ready to get back to in-person service outside

Posted at 9:47 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 23:22:53-04

LEBANON, Ohio — Change is on the menu for bars and restaurants across Ohio Friday as the state allowed diners to use outdoor seating for the first time since establishments were forced to stop in-person service in March.

Across the Tri-State, cities are encouraging people to venture out by shutting down streets so restaurants without patios can take part.

That’s good news for restaurants like Lebanon's original Roll On In, which has seen profits fluctuate and forced the Lebanon business to cut employees hours.

“It’s been off and on. The first couple of weeks, we were pretty slow, which was really unfortunate, but a lot of other restaurants were experiencing the same thing,” said manager Christian Kallenberger.

Lebanon blocked off traffic on Mulberry Street, and with a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) already in place, people flocked here looking for food and a sense of normalcy.

One of them is Cole Smith, who said he's glad to support local businesses by going out to eat as restaurants like Roll On In reopened.

“Everyone that I’ve talked to is looking forward to it right now. Everybody is, they’re pretty relaxed as long as we take some precaution, nobody’s too worried,” he said.

As with everything else in the face of the pandemic, it’s really the uncertainty that some say makes reopening so difficult. Mike Jacobs, who has owned Doc’s Place for two years, said he and other owners have reservations about opening.

“Nobody knows what to expect. I’ve talked to owners locally, in Cincinnati and all over and we’re all in the same boat. We don’t know what this means,” he said.

Jacobs says he’s relieved to return to outdoor seating, as his business was operating at about 20% during the carryout phase. He says the fact that longtime customers have returned makes the future seem brighter.

“Getting this rolling again, it means everything,” Jacobs said.

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