COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)– Restaurants have been one of the hardest hit industries during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are continuously trying to find ways to keep the lights on, and one way they’re are seeing success is with temporary patio expansions. But there is a roadblock for some of the restaurants in Columbus.
“Everybody is trying to keep their head above water. No one is trying to make money,” said Seventh Son Brewing co-owner Collin Castore.
“In the state, Columbus is the only locality that’s holding back on [temporary patio expansions],” said John Barker, Ohio Restaurant Association president and CEO.
Barker says restaurants have seen the success in other cities and even municipalities in Franklin County.
Collin Castore is a co-owner of Seventh Son Brewing in Italian Village. He says he’s been trying to expand his patio into his parking lot since May. He says he’s had push back from the city and their reasoning has changed a few times.
“Now it’s shifted to ‘we don’t want people to go out at all,’ and I completely understand that but the reality is people are going out,” noted Castore.
“It’s totally inconsistent with all of their peers,” explained Barker.
Franklin County Public Health also stands behind the idea of a patio expansion.
“We know being outside is better than being inside so we feel that plays into that decision,” explained Garret Guillozet from Franklin County Environmental Health with the health dept.
Guillozet says they can normally approve an application within 48 hours.
“We make sure they’re not adding any new equipment, any new bars, taps, pour stations and it’s just really seating and spreading people out. We always tell the business that it’s contingent on local zoning rules and restrictions. We have jurisdiction in every other place except for Columbus and Worthington,” he said.
He says they have shared information about the success of this patio expansion with the city of Columbus.
“I shared with them what we’re doing and how were ensuring the businesses are complying. We looked at it as it’s not so much so that businesses are trying to increase capacity they’re just trying to recover what they lost when they had to separate their tables six feet apart,” Guillozet said.
Barker says this small change could mean the difference between a thriving city and one that will soon see a dramatic change in the way it functions.
“I don’t know if Columbus is thinking about the impact this could have on the city because revenue is already going to be way down,” Barker added.
“Everyone is just trying to survive and this is getting in the way of helping people survive,” noted Castore.
Columbus Public Health is aware of the situation. Castore has been emailing multiple people to try and get his temporary expansion approved.
We are keenly aware of the financial impact COVID-19 has had on bars and restaurants, but COVID-19 cases continue to increase in our community and across the country. We have no plans to change our building and zoning process, so nothing is on hold. A request that wouldn’t have been approved prior to COVID-19 is not going to get special consideration now.Columbus Public Health
Right now the city is allowing the normal patio expansions, so according to Castore they have to go through multiple people and avenues to get what they need to get it approved.
Castore says its an almost impossible task and even if he started in May there would have been no guarantee he would have been approved by the end of the season. The temporary patio expansion is just for seating.
“The Governor himself has said that it’s so much better that if people go out they stick to the outside stick to the patios. They basically said go do this impossible thing and then we’ll talk to you about your permit but everyone knows it’s impossible to turn a parking lot into a dining room,” Castore added.