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The new reality for restaurants: Doug Trattner reports

It's more than barriers and modified menus.

ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — As restaurants all across Ohio and Cleveland are planning to resume full-service operation in some capacity for the first time in two months, we reached out to management at Tartine Bistro in Rocky River to see how they intend to move forward. The popular French eatery will skip this weekend’s outdoor dining launch so they can focus on offering both indoor and outdoor dining when it becomes permissible next week.

After 13 years in business, Tartine Bistro closed its doors two months ago. But in light of the Governor’s recent guidance, owner Dean Valore says it’s time to get back to business. 

“The Governor made the announcement that we can get back in business, and once we turn the flow of expenses back on and open the doors, we need revenue,” explains Valore. “We think here in Rocky River we’re going to have a relatively strong flow of customers, we hope.”

Valore says that despite his decision to reopen the restaurant, he is not pressuring any of his staff to return to work.

“We’re not forcing anybody to come back,” he stresses. “The health and safety of our employees is critical. They’ll always have a career with us here at Tartine and we understand if someone’s not comfortable or ready to come back out into the public yet. That’s their decision and we respect that decision.”

Manager B.J. Grieve says that every measure intended to ensure the health and safety of employees and the general public is being followed, including additional steps that go above and beyond those prescribed.

“Inside the restaurant we have invested in some very high-end, handmade Plexiglas dividers that will be separating all of our tables so that there will be a barrier between guests and people they don’t know,” explains Grieve.

The plexiglass barriers are a brainchild of Chef Dante Boccuzzi, and will be used at restaurants, salons, and retail for separation. Servers will wear masks, tables will not be set with napkins, silverware or water glasses, and the interaction between staff and guest will be minimized.

And then there are the sanitation protocols.

“We will be militant in our cleaning and sanitization,” Grieve adds.

Outside, the patio has been expanded so that diners will all be at least six feet away from other guests.

Executive chef Michael Grieve says that menu also will receive some modifications to expedite the dining-in as well as the dining-out process. Customers can expect to see a pared down bill of fare that relies on fewer ingredients and expanded carry-out packages in the coming weeks.

Valore would like to caution eager guests that this will be a very measured and deliberate reopening, with no room for unfettered walk-up business.

“Out of the gate we’re going to start with a reservation-only system because we don’t people queuing up outside or having to wait in their cars,” he says. “That’s just awkward and it takes away from what most people are chomping at the bit to do, which is get back out to enjoy fine dining and the restaurant atmosphere.”

Given the expense and difficulty of restarting a restaurant that has been closed for two months, Valore is doing his best to do so in a safe, responsible way that ensures a long run. But he is not naïve to think that the future is without challenges and even the possibility of closing the doors all over again.

“It’s definitely a concern and probably a likelihood,” he says. “Given everything that we’re hearing in the national news about being ready to reopen or not being ready to reopen, there is a possibility that we will be in worse shape than we are now in three months and we have to shut down again. But at this point we are crossing each bridge as we get to them.”

You can watch Part 1 of Doug's report in the player above. Part 2 can be seen below:

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