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Owner elects to close Harmar Tavern, Spagna’s

Citing COVID-19 concerns, Whitby says he hopes to reopen

A sign on the door of the Harmar Tavern on Maple Street in Marietta announces the longtime establishment is closed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Owner Kevin Whitby said he hopes to be able to reopen both the tavern and Spagna’s. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Two popular eateries on Marietta’s west side have closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the owner hopes to reopen both Harmar Tavern and Spagna’s eventually.

“As we watch the number of confirmed COVID cases and increased deaths, we have made the difficult decision to close both of our locations,” owner Kevin Whitby said Monday in posts on the Facebook pages of both Harmar Village fixtures. “The safety of our employees and the community is our top priority.”

Health and economic factors played into the decision, he said.

“People are afraid to come out right now,” Whitby said in an interview Monday afternoon. “There aren’t enough of them to keep the business working.”

As of Monday, there had been 1,379 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Washington County and another 52 probable cases, with 25 confirmed deaths and two probable, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard. There are 746 active cases, with 379 new cases in the last two weeks, according to ODH data.

Spagna’s on Gilman Avenue in Marietta is closed. Owner Kevin Whitby said he made the decision because of concerns about his staff’s health and safety and the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

With those numbers, Whitby said he didn’t feel it was safe to remain open.

Hours have been reduced because of the state’s 10 p.m. last call order and then curfew, as well as the level of traffic the restaurants have seen, he said.

And if one or more of the approximately 15 employees are potentially exposed to someone with the virus, they must quarantine for two weeks.

“Small businesses can’t afford that,” Whitby said.

Given those considerations, Whitby said he figured, “I might as well close down now and keep everybody safe.

“And hopefully we’ll come back stronger,” he said.

When Spagna’s and the Harmar Tavern shut down in March at the start of the pandemic, they were unprepared and it cost them financially, including lost inventory. Monitoring the numbers and anticipating another closure, Whitby said he’s in a better position this time.

Larry Sloter, who owns the Busy Bee Restaurant in Harmar, said he was surprised to hear of the decision but he understands it.

“It’s hard for Harmar Village. They’re two of the primary drivers of business,” said Sloter, adding that he does not see them as direct competitors since his establishment focuses solely on breakfast.

The Busy Bee is staying open, but Sloter said it’s felt the impact just like other restaurants.

“I don’t think this is going to be the last of the restaurants to close up,” he said.

The use of plastic dividers meant they only lost about 10 seats while adhering to safety guidelines, but “November was a tough month here because of weather creeping in and shutting down the patio,” Sloter said.

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