Visit Dublin, Ohio's social-media campaign designed to boost restaurants' recovery

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
Bar manager Christina pours a strawberry mint cooler for customers Feb. 17 at Mezzo in Dublin. Visit Dublin, Ohio has launched a social-media campaign to help restaurants survive the winter and gain momentum for the spring.

Winter is weighing heavy upon central Ohio, but spring soon will arrive – and with it, Dublin restaurant owners and operators hope, will be an increase in customers.

“We should see an increase (in customers). It’s promising,” said Steve Paul, the assistant general manager at Matt the Miller’s Tavern, 6725 Avery-Muirfield Drive.

A return to warmer weather, allowing use of the restaurant’s patio, coupled with an increasing number of people vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus who are ready to move toward normalcy, should equate to more customers, Paul said.

Visit Dublin, Ohio, which functions as the city’s convention and visitors bureau, is working to make Paul’s hope, and those of other Dublin restaurateurs and hoteliers, a reality.

Scott Dring, president and CEO of Visit Dublin, Ohio, said the organization launched a social-media campaign via dublinsafe.com as a way to help restaurants survive the winter and gain momentum for the spring.

Although Dring projected “a long winter” for Dublin’s restaurants as part of a 2021 Hospitality Industry Forecast, the campaign has shown early success, with visits to multiple social-media platforms at a greater-than-average frequency and duration, he said.

The campaign “reinforces how we can support restaurants and highlights what they are doing to keep residents and visitors safe,” Dring said.

The campaign includes promotions, such as the Celtic Cocktail Trail, a St. Patrick's Day-related event to encourage people to visit Dublin restaurants and taverns.

But what could provide perhaps the biggest boost to Dublin’s restaurants and taverns is the establishment of a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, Dring said.

Ohio Revised Code allows for municipalities to create DORAs to establish specific times and boundaries in which the possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages are permitted in outdoor public rights of way.

Dublin is considering the establishment of two DORA districts, and Dublin City Council could approve a resolution authorizing them as soon as April 26, according to Feb. 16 memo to council from City Manager Dana McDaniel.

The city will hold a virtual public-information meeting from 5:30 to 7 p.m. March 3 to gather feedback about the proposed DORAs.

“Visit Dublin supports the creation of a DORA,” Dring said.

Flames rise from a skillet as executive sous chef Eric Casey cooks an order of seared scallops Feb. 17 at Mezzo in Dublin.

Meanwhile, Dublin restaurants are continuing to make adjustments for the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

Sheila Trautner, owner of Mezzo at 12 W. Bridge St., said her restaurant benefits from having three patios: two on the ground floor and one on the second floor.

Last year was tough, Trautner said, as the restaurant was closed from mid-March through May when all restaurants were prohibited from having indoor dining to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the early stages of the pandemic.

“It was tough' it still is,” she said.

But Mezzo received funding for personal-protection equipment and built up its carryout service, and many people have became more comfortable with dining out, too, Trautner said.

“I think (business) will improve in the spring and summer when we can be outdoors," she said.

Michael Sharp, general manager of Tucci’s at 35 N. High St., said the restaurant’s patio and the ability to place tables last summer in an adjacent alley helped it survive.

“We’re blessed to have a wonderful patio,” he said, and the tables in the alley last summer provided and “al fresco” aura.

To maintain the patio's capacity, it was enclosed and heated for the winter. Custom lighting, an air-purification system and plantings also were installed.

“It’s quite a spectacle," Sharp said.

Modifications also were made inside, some of which could remain post-pandemic, Sharp said.

“We’ve got a nice system dialed in,” he said.

The state's recent lifting of a curfew that had required restaurants and taverns to close at 10 p.m. also is helping, according to Sharp.

Although typically not a late-night destination, the expiration of the curfew allows the opportunity for customers to visit Matt the Miller’s on the way home from a game or other activity, Paul said.

In addition to its social-media campaign, Dring said, he hopes the next boon is leisure travel in the summer, another component of his 2021 forecast.

Visit Dublin’s “Far from Ordinary, Close to Home” campaign is meant to attract in-state visitors.

A similar regional campaign might be launched later this year in the Detroit, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh markets, Dring said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo