With no COVID-19 cases associated with Cincinnati restaurants, the owners are asking guests to come back and mask themselves

CINCINNATI – Amid Cincinnati’s Masking Ordinance and a recent state masking obligation, some of the city’s best chefs and restaurant owners are working on a new recipe to make dinner safe – and asking for patrons for help.

And for Jose Salazar, owner of Mita’s and Goose And Elder, the next few weeks will be “a make-or-break point”.

“We’re starting to consider at least a temporary closure if things don’t get better soon, I mean immediately,” he said.

Despite a surge in cases in the area, Mayor John Cranley said Friday that no COVID-19 cases have been traced back to Cincinnati restaurants.

“If you go to a restaurant that is not three feet apart or employees don’t wear masks, you should stop going and tell us about it,” Cranley said at a news conference Friday. “We will take care of it.”

Paramedics from the Cincinnati Department of Health were recently hired to enforce the regulation requiring businesses and individuals to wear masks in public. Health Commissioner Melba Moore told WCPO that paramedics are now checking companies for compliance, but not citing individuals.

Moore said the health department was still working on a protocol for it as it usually focuses on companies violating health orders. Punishing people isn’t the goal, Moore said.

Instead, their department will focus on providing people with a mask when needed and educating them on what restaurant owners like Joe Lonnie already have on their minds.

Lonnie co-founded the Thunderdome Restaurant Group, which includes Bakersfield, City Bird, Kreuger’s Tavern, and other Cincinnati restaurants. Like Salazar, he is also concerned about the legions of restaurant workers facing another round of closings.

“Come back. The thought of closing down for misconception is very scary,” he said.

Lonnie hopes customers will flock to restaurants and bars again with clearer protocols.

“Get a group of people from the city, health department and industry. Think about clearer protocols that are used in the city,” he said.

Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment’s Brittany Ruby-Miller agreed and challenged the restaurants that did not do their part to keep customers safe.

“99.5% of bars do things right. They have amazing operators who are doing things right, ”she said.

Late last month, Molly Wellmann, owner and renowned bartender at Japp’s Since 1879, decided to temporarily close the bar and run virus tests for it and all of its employees after a weekend customer tested positive for the virus.

She said the vast majority of restaurants and bars are not afraid to take extra precautions to keep customers safe and hopes customers will return the courtesy by wearing masks.

“Your part of coming out is that you pay attention. Two to appear in a mask. Three to keep social distance as well. That’s it. And then you have a good time! We’ll do the rest.” she said. “Seriously. Wear a mask.”

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