LIMA — Ray Magnus heard about Governor Mike DeWine’s order to close all restaurant and bar dining rooms the same way most Ohioans did, while watching the news on Sunday afternoon.
“I had an idea it was coming,” said Magnus, owner of the 318 Restaurant & Bar in downtown Lima. “I was hoping it wouldn’t, but with everything that’s going on – they’re shutting down the schools, limiting nursing home visits. All the things they were doing to try to keep people from being crowded in small areas – I had an idea it might come.”
The 318, like hundreds of other bars and restaurants across Ohio, closed its dining room earlier than usual on Sunday evening.
The tough choice came next: Stay open for carryout and delivery – and try to make at least some revenue while the public is asked to stay home — or take DeWine up on his offer to extend unemployment benefits to workers whose employers temporarily close?
While many restaurants plan to stay open for now, the 318 won’t be one of them.
“It’s not worth it to us,” Magnus said.
Magnus notified staff of his decision during an emergency meeting Monday morning, instructing the restaurant’s 13 employees to immediately file for unemployment benefits. But he offered one other benefit: a pledge to set aside $10,000 of his own to help staff pay their bills while the restaurant is closed.
The developments stand in stark contrast to Saturday night’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, which drew crowds all over the U.S. despite increasing calls from government and public health experts for the public to stay home and avoid crowds.
The public’s reluctance to stay home was likely a factor in DeWine’s decision to formally close restaurant dining rooms. The governor cited St. Patrick’s Day festivities, which he said would have made social distancing nearly “impossible.”
“They weren’t concerned about it Saturday night, that’s for sure,” Magnus said. “There was no social distancing on Saturday night.”
Saturday was slower than usual at Mulligans on North Street. The Irish pub opened at 9 a.m., a St. Patrick’s Day tradition. But without the annual Irish Day Parade, there weren’t many customers looking for a beer on a Saturday morning.
Owner Christine Franklin doesn’t know how she’s going to make it through the next few months.
“I’ve been crying since 9 p.m. (Sunday), when I had to close,” she said.
The restrictions are easier for some restaurants to adapt to than others.
Happy Daz will keep its drive-through windows and front counters open for the foreseeable future, the restaurant said on Facebook. The Met is offering carryout, which servers will hand-deliver to customers’ cars. La Charreada will stay open for now. The list of restaurants which intend to reorient their operations for drive-through and carryout service is long, but the situation is fluid.
Franklin, for example, saw no reason to keep the bar open just for delivery and carryout when Mulligans’ menu is so small to begin with. But the bills won’t stop even while the bar is closed. And Franklin worries about her staff, many of whom are single parents.
“At least some of these other bars, they have full kitchens,” Franklin said. “They can do some carryouts. I do hope people are doing that for them. But for us, it’s just not feasible.”
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.