COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Bars and restaurants were not among the businesses given the green light by the state to reopen.

John Barker, president of the Ohio Restaurant Association, says it’s concerning that there were no details about when the restaurant industry would reopen.

“Our members want some clarity and that’s a reasonable request,” Barker said. “And having about a two-week notice, that’s what restaurants are going to need to get open. They need to reorder inventory and rehire and get people back in the restaurants.”

Barker said the association submitted a detailed plan to the state for how restaurants could safely comply with new, strict standards for hygiene and physical distancing.

“We’d like to target May 15 to reopen restaurants in Ohio and get back at it and we believe we have the processes and procedures and safety procedures in place to be able to make that happen and both make the employees safe and the guests safe,” Barker said.

Barker said restaurant owners have been making plans for reduced capacities for dine-in customers.

At Amato’s Woodfired Pizza in Delaware and Mount Vernon, owner Jim Davis said they’re preparing for increased hygiene requirements and reduced seating capacity.

“What we’re envisioning is probably 50 percent of our current occupancy rates, which we completely understand the reasoning behind it,” Davis said. 

The restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Nearly a third of Ohio’s newly unemployed are restaurant workers. About half of all restaurants have been totally closed while the other half have remained open for take-out only.

Tom Dailey, owner of Zoup, a chain of soup and sandwich restaurants, said the return of office workers, manufacturing and retail will generate more take-out customers for his restaurants.

“As people return to work even before the restaurant dining rooms are open, that will still create additional traffic and demand for our restaurants, so it’s a step in the right direction,” Dailey said.

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