NORTH CANTON, Ohio — Shuttered for nearly two months by stay-at-home orders, many Ohio bars and restaurants are preparing to welcome back dine-in customers on May 21, the day Gov. Mike DeWine has set for their reopening.
Social distancing requirements are making this challenging for businesses that lack the space to spread out without reducing seats. Twisted Citrus, a North Canton breakfast and brunch café, is getting creative to keep customers inside by borrowing from the bathroom to keep its kitchen going.
Co-owner Kim Shapiro and her staff hung shower curtains from PVC pipes, which are suspended from the ceiling with fishing wire. Shapiro says she was inspired by what airlines are doing with Plexiglass to separate passengers seated close to each other.
“We looked at plexiglass,” she said. “Not only is it heavy and expensive but right now it is very difficult to find. This is the solution that we came up with that we thought might work.”
Many retail stores have already installed Plexiglass dividers between customers and cashiers. Shapiro has also rearranged the tables to face back to back and reduced seating capacity.
“We have tables in the restaurant that don’t have the barriers because we can safely distance people and some with barriers and we will always give people the option,” she said.
Twisted Citrus, like other restaurants, also hopes to utilize its bar and counter space, perhaps with see-through barriers between bar stools that extend beyond the counter. She showed off a movable wood-and-Plexiglass prototype Sunday.
“You can see the person next to you,” Shapiro said. “In a place like ours, every seat counts.”
Co-owner Scott Shapiro says the changes are meant to ensure that the community, its staff and customers are safe.
Some restaurants are planning to replace plastic menus that get shared by customers with single-use paper menus.
Hand cleaning stations are also likely to become part of the décor at some places. Business owners say the state’s health directives leave room for them to be creative, but customers ultimately will dictate the future.
“This is a fluid situation and our customers are going to tell us what they are comfortable with and what they are not,” Kim Shapiro said.