McCrabb: These new Butler County businesses have taken brave steps during coronavirus precautions

BUTLER COUNTY — When asked why she and her business partner would open a restaurant during the coronavirus, Monica Nenni, co-owner of a popular downtown Middletown bar, responded: “Crazy times make people do crazy things."

During the last seven months when we have been strangled by the coronavirus and its ever-changing restrictions, we have needed small business owners and event organizers more than ever. We depend on them and their entrepreneurial spirit to open their doors, give us an outlet, allow us a little normalcy.

New business openings aren’t front-page news unless you consider the number of businesses that have closed nationally during the first six months of the coronavirus. According to a recent study, as of the end of August, 163,735 businesses have indicated they have closed, a 23 percent increase since mid-July. Of those, 97,966, or 60 percent, said their closure was permanent.

While some owners are taping “Going Out Of Business” signs on their front doors, others are advertising “Grand Openings.”

Throughout Butler and Warren counties, there are countless people like Nenni and her business partner, Melissa Kutzera, who have taken a financial risk by opening during the coronavirus.

They’re leasing the building that housed a Middletown restaurant that closed last year. They changed the name of Stefano’s to Bandanas and slightly switched the menu, adding steaks, family favorites and desserts to the Italian selections.

Restaurants and retail shops have opened in the region during the coronavirus pandemic and recently a Hamilton arts and music festival was held with modifications to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Without these businesses and community events our quality of life would have suffered.

“The world is still open and we still need to live life,” said Rick Pearce, president of the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton. “Business owners face challenges every day and what better challenge than overcoming COVID-19. If they can be successful through that, they can succeed through anything.”

In recent months, restaurants and small businesses have opened throughout Butler and Warren counties and there are plans for additional openings.

Besides Bandanas, Middletown’s downtown area has bars, restaurants and retailers.

Hamilton has seen several unique businesses open recently: a disc golf and skateboard store, a reptile store, and a health store.

In Fairfield, The Sandwich Cafe & Deli debuted in August as the newest food addition on Nilles Road. The new restaurant takes over a spot that used to be a computer store and is nestled between Hot Head Burrito and Miller St. Boutique.

Panera Bread was expected to open next month at 5875 Dixie Highway, in front of Shared Harvest food bank, but the project was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s expected to open early next year.

Dreams BBQ is expected to open some time at 6025 Dixie Highway in Fairfield, according to co-owner Hikmat Khalaf.

A new Arby’s restaurant is being planned for the northwest corner of Ohio 63/Hamilton-Lebanon Road and American Way in Monroe and in Lebanon, the city’s long-time main fire station will be transformed into a family-style restaurant and microbrewery or distillery, according to a deal being negotiated by city officials and a management group.

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