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“We had to get out”; Local residents enjoy restaurant re-openings

Photo by Janelle Patterson Collin Medlin, 5, of Waterford, takes a big bite of a monster sundae at Whit's Frozen Custard Friday while enjoying the now-open patio with his parents Tisa, left, and Kyle.

With an eye on gray clouds, some early birds snagged a patio seat at the few food services offering outdoor seating for reopening day Friday.

“We had to get out, and so celebrating his preschool graduation today was perfect,” said Kyle Medlin, of Waterford, as he joined his wife Tisa and son Collin, 5, for sweet treats on the private patio of Whit’s Frozen Custard in Marietta.

“I went in and ordered while they stayed out here, we’re still practicing those distancing measures,” said Tisa Medlin.

But the three were excited to tentatively utilize the first round of restaurant reopenings in Ohio since closures due to coronavirus.

Other restaurants in Marietta like Tampico, The Busy Bee, Harmar Tavern, The Town House and Spagna’s are still waiting, either to configure required spacing of tables, or complete remodeling/renovation work begun during the nearly two months of physical closure.

“I have some final things lined up this month to get done like pour concrete outside for a better outdoor patio,” said Busy Bee owner Larry Sloter. “I anticipate we’d open the beginning of June.”

Brett Hower, 25, of Marietta, said he’d planned his Friday date night for the House of Wines, but was worried about the weather.

“But that will definitely be the first place I go,” said Hower. “I have a good relationship with (owner Sally Oliver) so I try to support her. That will be my first spot on her patio.”

But space is still limited both outside and indoors (once inner dining rooms are allowed to reopen next week), due to state requirements for social distancing.

No more than 10 people may sit at one table and tables must be six feet apart.

For restaurants with small, privately-owned outdoor patios, narrow indoor space and/or only two tables on a city-owned sidewalk, adjustments to meet these separations will be a challenge, said Marietta-Belpre Health Commissioner Anne Goon.

“It will be up to each individual business to figure out what works for them, we can only advise if they ask or respond to a complaint,” said Goon on Friday. “That’s going to require a lot of creativity and innovation on their part to figure out how to do it.”

One closed-door discussion this week with Marietta Main Street members and four restaurant owners who have private patios focused on a 2015 state law allowing the creation by a government body of a designated outdoor refreshment area (DORA).

Marietta City Law Director Paul Bertram reiterated Friday that the creation of a DORA in downtown Marietta is not an applicable use of the state law, but that other laws already in place within the city allow for expanded outdoor seating for local restaurants.

“I think a DORA is a permanent zone, and I put a call in today to (The Ohio Liquor Control Board) to further talk about their intentions of that 2015 law,” said Bertram. “If they were thinking about downtown areas and streets, they would have explained that more in what the definition of a (designated outdoor refreshment area) zone is. I cannot believe the legislature intended for a downtown district to be a DORA.”

Goon said if the city, through participation between the administration and city council, were to offer temporary closures of lanes or whole blocks of city streets as an expanded outdoor dining space this year, no additional food service licensure or health permits would be necessary, but the same sanitation and health order rules apply.

This could theoretically offer a restaurant extra outdoor table space to serve patrons, or offer a combination effort between neighboring restaurants to provide a food-court style dining experience while still observing six-foot distancing.

Marietta City Council’s Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing Chairman Geoff Schenkel thought through these options Friday, after consulting with Marietta City Law Director Paul Bertram Thursday.

Schenkel said the city’s options for stimulating this realm of the city’s local economy focus on:

1. Whether to offer additional space (by use of a permit).

2. How to limit the timing of potential street or partial street closures (by dictates of a schedule with a sunset clause).

3. How to encourage restaurant owners to rehire, or otherwise staff servers living on tips.

4. How to utilize such times of temporary closure to study traffic pattern adjustment options.

“This is early discussion so there will almost certainly be questions not yet answered but I would not let that deter us,” Schenkel advised members of Marietta Main Street Friday. “Any person or any group can use local law to seek the closure of a street. I believe the permit cost is $40.”

The current processes are how events like the Marietta Riverfront Roar; Red, White and Blues Festival; Ohio River Sternwheel Festival; Rivers Trails and Ales Festival; Brick Streets Arts Bash; and holiday parades are accomplished with various additional permits with the Ohio Liquor Control Board and temporary local waiver of open container law enforcement if including alcohol.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

Ohio restaurant reopening requirements for both indoor and outdoor on-premise dining:

• Six feet of distance between tables.

• No more than 10 people gathered per table.

• Photo ID must still be verified for alcohol and tobacco sales, by removal of masks.

• Masks are required for employees unless unsafe (like over open flame or in extreme heat).

• Symptoms of coronavirus must be posted by the restaurant in a clearly visible location.

• Buffets and salad bars must be served by staff, not self-serve.

•Spacing notices for walk-up/line service are encouraged.

•Separate entry and exit options for patrons are encouraged.

Source: Ohio Department of Health.

Marietta area restaurants with private or enclosed by permit outdoor dining space:

•Boathouse BBQ.

• The Busy Bee.

•The Buckley House.

• Cone N Shake.

• Kreamy Kreations.

• The Galley.

•Gater’s Pub.

•Harmar Tavern.

•Historic Lafayette Hotel (rooftop).

• House of Wines.

• Levee House.*

•Marietta Brewing Company.

• Marietta Country Club.

• Norwood Tavern.

•Over the Moon Pub & Pizza.

• Pioneer Tavern.

• The Riveria.

•The Town House.

• Tampico Mexican Restaurant.

•Spagna’s.

•Whit’s Frozen Custard.

•740 Social.**

Note: Restaurants chains are not included in this list.

Marietta area restaurants with unbound sidewalk outdoor dining:

•Austyn’s.

•Jeremiah’s Coffee House.

• The Original Pizza Place.

• River Town Grill.

•Third Street Deli.

•TLV Restaurant.

* Not a currently licensed restaurant but bearing present permits for outdoor dining on a city sidewalk.

** In the process of obtaining foodservice licensure as a new business.

Source: Times research and Marietta-Belpre Health Department.

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