WILLOUGHBY, Ohio (WJW)– Restaurants opened for business with no COVID-19 restrictions in place on Wednesday for the first time in more than one year.
Many restaurants are transitioning back to full-capacity, dine-in service with no plastic barriers or social distancing. The change comes as statewide health restrictions were lifted Wednesday.
“We get to open up the whole place again and we couldn’t be more happy,” said James Turcotte, co-owner of Chagrin River Diner.
Turcotte said the restaurant will celebrate its third anniversary this month. The biggest present customers can give is filling up seats.
“I’m just excited to run a business again without restrictions. It’s going to be fun again,” he said.
A block away at The Wild Goose, masks are no longer mandatory, in accordance with CDC guidance, for unvaccinated people.
“It’s relief more than anything. We realized that the fight’s not over against COVID, but getting a little more back to normal, some semblance of what we’re used to and allow our economy to come back is what we are really excited about,” said owner Brendan Kearney.
With most COVID-19 restrictions now lifted across the state in public places, aside from nursing homes, assisted living and health care centers, restaurant owners said they hope to meet increasing customer demand.
“Right now, just excited to get some more people in,” said Turcotte with a laugh. “And then maybe some people will put applications in. I am running, I will be running tight if we do fill up capacity right now.”
Down the street at Hola Tacos there’s a clear sign business is picking up.
“Since the vaccination, definitely we have seen an improvement in our business,” said co-owner Jennifer Stuyvesant Ortiz. “Our online orders have been declining because people are coming more to the restaurant.”
She said as more people become vaccinated, they realize grabbing takeout at her restaurant can’t be compared to dining inside.
“It’s not the same when you eat out of the box and when you eat fresh from the kitchen, you know. It’s a different experience,” she said.
Restaurant owners are preparing for an expected summer boom in business after struggling for so long.
“It will be an awesome, awesome summer,” said Diana Quiggle, of Just One More Tavern in Kirtland.