‘It feels really good to be out’: Butler County restaurants, salons, tattoo shops celebrated on reopening

People patronizing Butler County businesses Friday expressed relief that they could again experience parts of life that have been closed off for months.

“It feels really good to be out,” said Kris Paxitzis, of Middletown, as he sat outside on the patio of Figleaf Brewing with his wife Kelli drinking an Irish Red Red Ale on Friday afternoon. “We’ve both been kind of cooped up. I mean, we both stayed essential for our jobs, but it’s nice to kind of get back to a semblance of normalcy, so that’s enjoyable.”

Hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors were allowed to open their doors again Friday a little more than a week after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine gave the green light to reopen with additional restrictions in place, including extra sanitization, greater social distancing and other precautions.

MORE: PHOTOS: More Butler County businesses reopen on Friday, with changes

Restaurants, which had been limited to carryout, delivery and curbside pick-up, had more leeway to operate by Ohio allowing outdoor dining.

That includes Alexander’s Market & Deli in Hamilton, where Kaleb Dennany, of Miamisburg, dined at one of three tables for an early lunch late Friday morning.

“They’re practicing social distancing everywhere I go, so they’re keeping the community safe,” he said. “It just gives you something to look forward to instead of just being in the house constantly.”

Alexander’s owner Les Rudisell said he doesn’t foresee an immediate uptick in business because his usual customers are still working remotely from home. Until they’re back in the office and dining out at his downtown restaurant, he plans to continue posting to social media to let area residents and workers know the place is open and ready to serve the public.

“Just one step at a time, that’s all we can do,” Rudisell said. “Whenever they’re ready and feel safe, they’ll come out and see us.”

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

Naiyozcsia King, owner of Mz. Jade’s Soul Food in Middletown’s Pendleton Art Center, said she wasn’t able to place tables outside of the building Friday because of windy weather and the chance of rain.

“I had customers actually come in here today and they were eating over at Governor’s Square,” King said. Customers who did enter the center from Central Avenue on Friday found hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and paper towels at the door.

The eatery has implemented social distancing measures by creating makeshift barriers to prevent customers from getting within six feet of the counter areas designated for ordering and picking up food. King said she’s feeling slightly unsure about dine-in service next Thursday.

“It’s a lot,” she said. “I’m going to keep them separated as much as I can do, but … I’m just a little leery because I want to make sure I’m doing all the proper things and following all the guidelines.”

Restaurant owners weren’t the only ones grappling Friday with what some said may be “the new normal.”

BeYOUtiful Salon Barber Spa owner Casey Thompson said her downtown Hamilton salon opened at 9 a.m. Friday, an hour earlier than most workdays, and some of her employees even opted to arrive an hour earlier than that just to prepare for their first day back in almost two months.

Keeping the salon sanitized isn’t as big of a challenge as some might think, because employees, even with their required amount of cleaning “amplified by a thousand,” already are accustomed to such measures, Thompson said.

Because of social distancing regulations, a fraction of the staff is allowed in the salon at one time, meaning BeYOUtiful Salon Bar Spa and other similar businesses will take longer to get to all their clients, she said.

“We’re only allowed a certain capacity, so we pretty much cut our day in half in trying to stretch them out while getting two months worth of clients into that time with less people, less hours, less availability,” Thompson said. “It was very, very difficult.”

The inability to double-book clients and fill all of the salon’s chairs will require it to operate, for the foreseeable future, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, Thompson said.

“We’re trying to get in double the clients in half the time,” she said.

Tattoo parlors, too, felt the pressure of re-entering the marketplace Friday amid a colossal swell of pent-up demand.

At Silkworm Tattoo Company on Main Street in Hamilton, owner Kevin Combs, wearing a mask, unlocked the door briefly to talk to this news outlet about how “awesome” it was to get his shop of 10 years reopened at noon with all five employees.

“We’ve got a huge, huge following, so we’re answering phone calls non-stop,” Combs said.

Bold Traditions Tattoo on Central Avenue in Middletown is seeing similar demand after being closed for so long, according to owner Mark Inman, who said it was “pretty exciting” to get back to inking.

“As far as trying to get the schedules back together … it’s going to be hectic,” Inman said.

A backlog of customers isn't the only the challenge in scheduling clients: Bold Traditions Tattoo's five employees, who did not qualify for unemployment during their time off, have health-related concerns about returning to work, Inman said.

For now, though, he’s content to give the business a “soft” reopening.

“We’re giving the guys time, also leaving it up to them if they want to come in or not,” he said. “I know a lot of people are kind of scared that it’s a little too soon, but some of us just have to work because of bills and everything else.”

Ohio’s reopening schedule

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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