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The new look of indoor dining as restaurants reopen in Ohio

COVID-19 has changed the experience.

CLEVELAND — It was like "opening day" for restaurants in Ohio, as indoor dining resumed for the first time in two months.

Not since their grand opening a decade ago has The Chocolate Bar in downtown Cleveland had such reason to celebrate. Simply seating customers on Thursday was an occasion.

“We are excited and we’re anticipating seeing a lot of great faces coming back,” owner Shawn Freeman said.

Yet it was clear that times have changed: The restaurant now has a new menu and new rules for how staff must socially distance. There are dividers between tables, markers in the kitchen for where cooks can stand, and a sign showing COVID-19 training by the front door.

For some people, time away from a favorite restaurant has been like time away from loved ones. Sandy Jones could not wait to return to Kalie’s Family Restaurant in South Euclid.

“And it’s like being part of a family,” she said. “In fact, we called to make sure they were going to go open, then we called our friends to come with us too because they also eat here.”

Barry Long has been ready to dine out even though he says his wife is not.

“That feeling of camaraderie was missing for a while,” Jones said. “It is nice to get back a little bit with caution, of course.”

Johnny’s Downtown had been prepping for weeks.

“We’ve done a great job, so just got to keep it up so I’m really excited for what we’re doing,” manager John Hitterman said.

Still, if you are planning to head out, you may want to call ahead first. Many restaurants remain closed, taking a "wait and see" approach.

Some have restricted their hours and are not open as early or as late as they used to be, may now be seating guests by reservation only, and some may even take your temperature upon arrival.

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