Loveland LaRosa’s reopened indoor dining on Tuesday, May 26, following a smooth reopening of area restaurants over the holiday weekend.
By Chuck Gibson
LOVELAND, OH (May 26, 2020) – Paxton’s Grill & Ramsey’s Trailside opened for indoor dining Thursday, May 21, after 10 weeks of offering carry out and curb service only due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. They could have opened their patio/outdoor dining along with other Loveland restaurants a week earlier, but chose to wait.
Ramsey’s Trailside reopened dining in time for Memorial Day Weekend in Loveland, OH (Chuck Gibson)
Other Historic Downtown Loveland eateries and bars along the Scenic Little Miami Trail chose to open their patios a week earlier. That, along with the opening of the expanded DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) by the City of Loveland, may have helped the community acclimate to being social again while using safe social distancing practices. It was not without its bumps, but a quick response by the city leaders to modify the DORA helped flatten those bumps. Ownership and management at The Works, Bishop’s Quarter, Narrow Path and others put good safe service procedures in place.
Ralph Dunnigan, ownership partner and G.M. at Paxton’s and John Zielke, General Manager at Ramsey’s used the extra week to set up the indoor dining area to maintain safe social distancing guidelines.
Paxton’s Grill outdoor diing area opened along with the indoor dining Thursday, May 21, (Chuck Gibson)
“We opened up on Thursday,” said Dunnigan. “Things are going well; no crowd gathering. We keep them moving.”
Parking lots were full all around the area throughout the day during the weekend. There was a lot of activity on the “bike trail” and in Nisbet Park too. At the same time, people appeared to be doing a fair job maintaining safe and healthy social distancing practices.
“It has been pretty smooth,” said Zielke as he stood near the entrance tent set up outside Ramsey’s Trailside. “People have been very good. They have not been congregating. It’s good.”
It was hard to find a parking space during Memorial Day Weekend indoor dining reopening in Loveland, OH (Chuck Gibson)
It’s probably true of all, but at least one serving staff member back from college at High Point, N.C., back to work at Ramsey’s summed it up pretty well saying: “I’m just glad to be back. It’s great to see the people.” Loveland LaRosa’s franchise owner Sam David was equally glad to open the dining room back up Tuesday, May 26. He counts himself lucky to have only had seven staff members unemployed during the pandemic shutdown.
“I expect all seven to be back next week,” said David. “Most of the staff stayed on for carry out and curb service during the pandemic.”
A happy LaRosa’s server takes care of the first group of diining room customers on RE-Opening Day, Tuesday, May 26, (Chuck Gibson)
Like Paxton’s and Ramsey’s on the trail, David waited to reopen the in-person dining business at Loveland LaRosa’s. The main objective was to get fully prepared with the new cleaning and sanitizing procedures. He also had some construction work done for the new dining room configuration to maximize capacity and safety for all.
“We lost three booths and four tables,” David said. “It was a lot better than I thought it would be. Fear of the unknown was my worst fear. I didn’t know what to expect. There was so much information coming from every angle.”
Newly constructed booth backs allow safe distancing while dining at LaRosa’s in Loveland (Chuck Gibson)
These three booths had to be closed in LaRosa’s dining room. (Chuck Gibson)
David is grateful for the leadership and help from LaRosa’s restaurant family getting everything sorted out to reopen. That included removing some tables, constructing taller divider backs for existing booths, throw away cups, bagging eating utensils for each diner, masks on the servers, and a lot of sanitizing and cleaning.
LaRosa’s franchise owner Sam David displays one of the bags of sanitized dining utensils (Chuck Gibson)
“I feel like were more like a hospital than we are a restaurant with as much product as we have for sanitizing and cleaning,” said David. “It was a process. I think it was a process which may even work to our advantage. We have everything well marked as to what is closed, what is open, what is sanitized and what is not sanitized.”
The three booths he lost were within 1/2 inch of meeting the six-foot social distancing requirement, but missed. David is not dwelling on what has been lost. He is happy to have the dining room open for business again. Servers were equally happy as the familiar faces of regular customers came through the doors for the reopening. Even a protective face mask could not hide the smiles. Memorial Day Weekend kicked indoor dining off with a happy and smooth start in Loveland.
New dining room layout at LaRosa’s in Loveland (Chuck Gibson)
Nisbet Park in Loveland, Ohio Memorial Day Weekend, May 23-25, 2020 (Chuck Gibson)