Central Ohio restaurants optimistic CDC changes will boost business


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Local restaurant owners are hoping new masking guidance will offer some relief to their businesses as the warm months approach in Ohio.

This is the beginning of patio season for many restaurants, meaning more and more options for dining. Couple that with loosening restrictions on masks for some people, and it gives some local restauranteurs hope.

The Centers for Disease Control said Tuesday if outdoors and in small groups, masks are no optional for people who are fully vaccinated.

“We didn’t have a patio season last year, so I don’t even know what it’s like anymore, so we’re ready,” said Tony Tanner, co-owner of The Cleaver in Grandview. “It’s going to be exciting.”

He said the announcement from the CDC is news he’s been waiting for and is excited to welcome people back to his front porch, which has been empty.

“Yeah, it sounds like a little bit of an incentive, so whatever it takes at this point, we just, you know, we just want people to get out and enjoy themselves,” Tanner said. “Come see us and all restaurants want the same thing and we’re all struggling the exact same way.”

In the Short North, Nile Woodson with Hai Poke is ready to see foot traffic, and for it to stay steady as summer approaches.

“I see two sides of it,” he said. “One side, that people will feel more confident to come out, people that have been vaccinated, and then always like the little voice in the back of my head wonders if people will take advantage of that who aren’t vaccinated.”

Inspried by the pandemic, Woodson is revamping his poke shop by eliminating indoor dining completely and installing a carry-out window. The patio will remain.

Woodson hopes more people who are hesitant seek out the vaccine following the latest CDC guidance.

“I would love for them to have that realization and I think a lot of people will,” Woodson said. “I also think a lot of people will feel sort of an obligation to be able to do things like travel more and be able to visit family more.”

And the timing of the announcement is a plus for restaurants, with many looking to rebound after a slow start to the year.

“This is great news,” Tanner said. “We are ready. It couldn’t come at a better time. I’m glad they didn’t do this in December.”

The CDC said losing the mask outdoors is only recommended for people who are fully vaccinated, defined as 14 days after completing either the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine or both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

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