The owner of Valter’s at the Maennerchor restaurant in the Brewery District did not open for dine-in service at 6 p.m. Friday as he publicly said he would do earlier this week.
Instead, Valter Veliu and his employees were busy preparing carryout dinners for a steady stream of customers, some of whom were sitting at outside tables at his South High Street restaurant waiting for their orders.
Veliu told The Dispatch he changed his mind about after his attorney told him he risked losing his liquor license by defying Gov. Mike DeWine’s order prohibiting sit-down restaurant service because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Just in case, Columbus police and two Columbus Public Health officials came to the restaurant to be sure.
But Veliu said Friday he is tired of waiting. He told the newspaper he plans to talk with about 20 other restaurant operators who hold liquor permits about an idea to all open at the same time if the order isn’t lifted soon.
"A lot of people want to dine in," he said. "There are different opinions everywhere."
Frustrated with the inability to open as he wants, Veliu took to social media Wednesday, recording a video and saying he would open up Friday.
"I’m willing to do anything to open. I’m desperate," he said. "I would rather be locked up."
On Friday, Veliu said he has lost $300,000 in revenue and is taking $7,400 a week out of his own pocket or from friends to keep his business running.
"I just want to make a buck," he said. "Or break even."
John Raadschelders had planned to dine in when he came Friday. But the Ohio State student and Columbus Maennerchor singer ordered some carryout instead.
"I know he’s been struggling," Raadschelders said. He called social media posts criticizing Veliu "kind of sad."
Veliu said he would only have opened five tables for dine-in to accommodate social distancing concerns.
Geoff and Allison Hatcher of Worthington Hills had planned to dine at Valter’s to celebrate their 21st wedding anniversary. Instead, they waited outside for their carryout order: two Reuben sandwiches, pierogis and Caesar’s salad.
"We’ve been here for 30-45 minutes. I feel perfectly safe," Geoff Hatcher said.
"But it’s not safe to put pieces of food in my mouth."