As Ohio restaurants prepared for the May 21 return of indoor dining, the owners and managers of several Delaware eateries said loyal customers kept them afloat during the pandemic shutdown.

After indoor dining was nixed statewide by Gov. Mike DeWine in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus in mid-March, Scoreboard Pub & Grill owner Bob Moore said business was down.

"We are getting killed," he said at the time.

But by May 15, customer support had improved the situation for the tavern at 6 Troy Road, Moore said.

"Our customers have been amazing for us," he said. "Really loyal."

Despite the pandemic business slump, Moore said takeout and delivery orders have been strong.

"My guess is we've done better than most. ... It's nice to know we have a pretty good place in a lot of people's hearts and minds," he said. "We've heard from them how much they missed the place.

George Warden, owner of the Dairy Depot, 390 N. Sandusky St., said business during the restaurant shutdown "turned out to be about the same" as the same period last year.

He attributed that to the Dairy Depot's lack of indoor dining and established reliance on takeout orders.

"The community has been wonderful, definitely supporting us and has not forgotten about us," said Tiffanie Cook, general manager of the Hamburger Inn, 16 N. Sandusky St.

"We're very grateful for their support during this pandemic and are anxious to get back to feeding the community," she said.

"We learned we really have loyal customers," said Frank Barickman, co-owner of Restoration Brew Worx, 25 N. Sandusky St.

"They've showed what customer support is," he said. "The downtown in general has been very well supported by the community. ... It's been really neat to see it. It wasn't just for one week. It's week eight of this and we're getting very good support.

"I can't thank everybody enough."

As the indoor dining ban neared its end, Richard Upton, owner of J. Gumbo's, 9 N. Sandusky St., said his restaurant benefited from being set up for takeout.

"We're fine for this type of arrangement. Our business is 60% takeout anyway," he said. "We're one of the fortunate ones never forced to close."

While indoor dining was scheduled to resume May 21, Upton said J. Gumbo's would remain takeout only until at least Memorial Day, May 25.

He said he will pay close attention to how the pandemic develops after May 21, and "a number of businesses have the same mindset."

Another factor is that J. Gumbo's interior won't easily allow the installation barriers between booths -- reducing seating capacity by about 75% because of required social distancing, he said.

While restaurants were allowed to open their patios for dining May 15, Upton said J. Gumbo's didn't, in part because of limited space.

"Logistically speaking, there are hassles (with patio dining). A lot of people aren't comfortable with it," he said.

The Hamburger Inn operated a patio before the pandemic, and Cook said the patio had a great response when it reopened May 15 with reduced seating to provide distancing.

Son of Thurman, 5 N. Sandusky St., shut down for four weeks in April and resumed operations May 6, said manager Adrianne Olszewski.

All workers were laid off and enrolling for unemployment went slowly, she said, but employees are gradually returning to work.

The restaurant is employing barriers between booths for its reopened dining room, now with about 11 tables, she said. Three other barriers have been installed at the corners of the bar.

The polymer barriers stop about 3 feet from the ceiling, and Olszewski said the restaurant might make them a permanent feature.

The Hamburger Inn will have a maximum of 18 indoor seats, Cook said. Customers dining alone will be seated individually, while those arriving as a group will sit together, she said.

Restoration Brew Worx will have about 75% of its normal seating capacity, using fireproof curtains on portable hangers where seating can't have 6-foot distancing, Barickman said.

They'll give the restaurant the ambiance of a "cozy little speakeasy," he said.

Moore said Scoreboard will use distancing to separate 15 to 18 tables, taking advantage of its more than 4,000 square feet of floor space.

That will be a little more than half of the tables used before the pandemic, he said.

Ohio has posted a detailed list of requirements for indoor dining, including masks for many employees and liberal handwashing and use of disinfectants.

"We are working diligently with all our businesses to help them open up safely" and follow the guidelines, said Delaware General Health District commissioner Shelia Hiddleson.

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