Reopened Canal Winchester restaurants depend on community support
Dan Powers opened Shade on the Canal in 2004, and he recently has been given a reminder about the loyalty of his customers.
When his restaurant at 19 S. High St. in Canal Winchester was closed to dine-in customers because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Powers found out the demand for his food continued. Carryout orders sky-rocketed and helped to keep the business going until it reopened for patio service and then later for indoor dining.
"There were times when the phone was ringing so much and we couldn't get to it all the time," Powers said. "They were calling us and contacting us on Facebook to ask if we were still open. I tried calling myself to get food for the family and couldn't get through. I just drove down there and got it because we live so close."
Shade on the Canal is an example of the many restaurants in Canal Winchester adjusting to the challenges of staying in business during the pandemic.
The state allowed establishments to reopen May 15 for outdoor service and May 21 for indoor service.
Some of the challenges include restructuring dining areas to accommodate distancing requirements, extensive cleaning and safety mandates, staffing and bringing customers back despite safety concerns.
Canal Wigwam has been a part of the downtown since 1899. Mark Savino reopened the restaurant at 4 S. High St. "about 10 years ago," and said he hasn't seen any period quite like this. He said the Paycheck Protection Payment funds from the federal government kept his business going.
"We opened a couple weeks before the May 21 dine-in date because of the PPP money," he said. "We opened for carryout so the employees could get some money.
"It took five, six, seven days to take off, but we were staying open 6 (a.m.) to 6 (p.m.) for 2 1/2 weeks," Savino said. "We normally closed at 3 (p.m.), but we wanted to get some of the dinner crowd. We were doing about 70% less than we normally would do, but the PPP helped a lot. It helped keep the utilities, insurance and taxes paid."
Powers said Shade on the Canal has reduced its dining area by 60% to 65%, and patio dining was "about the same" while still maintaining the 6-foot-distancing requirements mandated by the Ohio Department of Health.
He said plexiglass barriers in the restaurant help make his restaurant compliant.
Aside from the Canal Winchester location, Powers also operates Shade on 30th in Heath and Shade on State in Athens. He said the Canal Winchester location is doing about 50% of its normal business, whereas Heath and Athens are "about 25% and 20%," respectively.
"Fortunately, we're community-oriented, and we're so thankful to be community-supported," Powers said. "Carryout dropped off some since we reopened, but it is well above what we did beforehand. Normally, Canal has 5 or 6% carryout, but it's up to 10 times that. That helps make up for the lost seating.
"This affects everyone," he said. "We were able to bring everyone back at the beginning, and we're close to having everyone back. We have the same amount in the kitchen, but the numbers are down for the waitstaff. We tried to make sure we split the hours up among (the waitstaff)."
BrewDog's restaurant, DogTap Columbus at 96 Gender Road, did not stay open for carryout during the closure but did provide delivery for beer and merchandise.
"The demand for beer never went away," said Jon Quick, head of retail for BrewDog in the U.S.
Quick said the employees were furloughed during the period but still had health insurance during the closure. He said the restaurant now has 75-80% of its employees from pre-pandemic levels.
He said safety was a major point of emphasis when the restaurant reopened, first with outdoor dining and later indoor.
"When we came back, we wanted to have a strong statement," Quick said. "We have hand sanitizer at every table, and we have someone who goes around every 15 minutes and wipes down the high-traffic areas. You have so many people touching door handles and areas like that, and we're working to stay on top of that.
"We're using single-use paper menus that we recycle. If you have a laminated menu, there's no way to thoroughly clean it. It's hard to get bacteria out of the corners. We also encourage cashless payment and all of our crew wear masks and many wear gloves. We keep thinking of ways to make people feel comfortable and not awkward."
Quick said the dining area was reduced by 35% to allow for distancing, but the outdoor patio actually grew because of demand.
"We were able to provide 50% more patio seating and still allow social distancing," he said.
"We were ready to expand (the patio), and the dry summer has been a blessing for us."
Savino said the Canal Wigwam "pretty much had the same number of employees" as before the closure and business has returned to 65% to 70% of what it was last year. He said capacity is now 65 -- 35 seats fewer than before -- in order to remain in accordance with 6-foot-distancing requirements.
He said carryout orders are up 40% or 50% since dine-in options returned.
"We have some older clientele that isn't ready to come in, but anyone ready and willing seems to be coming back," Savino said. "The saving grace is the community. It's why we're sitting here.
"Lots of restaurants didn't reopen, and we're lucky. The Canal Winchester community takes care of its restaurants. I was getting calls from people that were in Florida (during the shutdown) and they wanted me to send them a gift card just to help us out. The community is why I am here right now. It's all due to them."