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Northeast Ohio restaurant leaders excited for extra hour of business

Eateries will prepare for a longer day of work starting Thursday.

CLEVELAND — On Thursday night, the state of Ohio will take another step toward fully reopening.

Bars and restaurants have gotten the green light from Gov. DeWine to stay open until 11 p.m. after the governor extended the state's curfew by an hour. At Chocolate Bar in downtown Cleveland, general manager Shawn Freeman says surviving the pandemic has been hard.

"We have people trying to get in and I have to look at them and say, 'Hey guys, we close within the hour,'" he told 3News. "Even that little extra hour will keep us going."

The curfew change is thanks to COVID-19 active hospitalization numbers declining below 3,500 cases for a week straight. At Hooley House, owner Richie Reece says all of his managers had a business Zoom meeting Wednesday morning to plan for the extra hour of business.

"We certainly will get it out on social media and make sure that we let everyone know what our new operating hours will be," he said. "Certainly, the staff has been made aware of what the plan will be moving forward."

If coronavirus hospitalizations fall below 3,000 for seven consecutive days, the curfew will extend to midnight. If hospitalizations fall below 2,500 for a week straight, the curfew will disappear, a prospect that excites restaurant leaders.

"If we all work together on this and all do what we're supposed to do, then the numbers can go down," Freeman said. "I would hate to have to close again or have to go back to 10 o’clock."

Knowing COVID-19 numbers can change any minute, the restaurant and bar industry is ready to pivot. Leaders say the next big hurdle will be working on increasing capacity so even more customers can safely dine in.

"We’ll take it day by day, but at Hooley House, we will do whatever it takes to follow the rules and make sure we keep people safe and keep their family members safe even more importantly as well," Reece declared.

Reece has been personally touched by the virus, losing two family members within the last month. So although plans are for all locations of Hooley House to stay open until 11 once businesses are able to, safety will always be the top concern for customers and staff.