Butler County restaurants open: What they’re doing for outdoor dining

Restaurants and bars in Butler County are ready to welcome customers back to their premises for more than just carryout orders as outdoor service is permitted starting today across Ohio.

Patio chairs and tables will be stationed outside Triple Moon Coffee Company in Middletown, which spent this week serving customers coffee and baked goods via a previously unused drive-thru area, according to co-owner Heather Gibson. The restaurant’s regular menu of food items will be available on a call-ahead basis starting Monday.

Gibson said she’s “on the fence” when it comes to outdoor dining in the age of coronavirus.

“If I come down and sit at a table with my family, the people who I live with, and the next family might be 10 feet away from me outside, I think that’s probably OK,” she said. “But for me, I have a lot of space here, so I can move tables around where they’re nowhere near each other.”

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She said she’s heard from other business owners, locally and elsewhere, who do not have enough room outside and feel that opening patio space does not make sense for them.

Outdoor dining, a new option for the Trenton location of Richards Pizza, already was available in previous years outside Fairfield and Monroe locations, according to Karen Underwood Kramer, co-owner of the restaurant, which also has locations in Hamilton and Ross Twp.

Tables will be placed far enough apart to allow for social distancing, and restaurant staffers will clean tables and chairs there as part of a sanitizing checklist tackled hourly and focusing on areas frequently touched by employees or customers.

She understands why the state wanted to get outdoor dining rolling for restaurants before indoor dining is permitted starting Thursday.

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“The point was that getting your patios ready is easier,” she said. “I think that the goal was to … give people two weeks to ramp up for (dine-in). Some of the restaurants have been closed, so they’ve got to get product inventory in and I think that’s a reasonable amount of time” to ramp up staffing and ensure business owners who may have been closed are restocked and ready to go.

Gina Isgro, co-owner of Gina’s Italian Kitchen & Tavern in Hamilton, said she’s happy to reopen on-site service and believes the process will go smoothly.

“We’re going to do our part to do everything we’re supposed to do,” Isgro said. “We have about 15 tables outside, so it’s going to be a little bit of a challenge, but I think … as long as we stay six feet apart, I feel that everybody who comes here is going to be on-board with it and I feel like that people are going to accept the changes that have to be made.”

Gibson said she’s suggested that Middletown officials take several city-owned tables used for special events and use them for people to dine out for restaurants that may or may not have their own dedicated patio space.

“We haven’t heard one way or another if it’s going to happen but we know they have picnic tables, so let us have them and just spread them out across downtown,” Gibson said. “If people want to do that whether it be for me or any other location, they’ll have a place to go.”

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But not all businesse are looking to reopen outdoor dining today.

Sonder Brewing in Deerfield Twp. posted to Facebook Thursday, saying that as excited as it is for "a new normal" to begin with an open taproom, it will not be making its ourdoor space available to guests this weekend.

“With safety and training as the focus of reopening, we are going to continue with our normal carry out hours for the time being as we continue to prep the taproom and train our staff,” the brewery said.

Ohio’s reopening schedule

Today: Restaurants will be allowed to host outdoor dining. Barbers, hair salons, nail salons, day spas and tanning facilities will reopen. Tattoo, body piercing and massage businesses also will be allowed to reopen.

May 21: Restaurants are permitted to reopen indoor dining, with some restrictions. Campgrounds also may reopen.

May 26: Gyms and fitness centers may reopen. Low-contact and non-contact sports, including baseball, tennis and golf, may resume

May 31: Daycares and childcare facilities will be permitted to reopen.

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