CINCINNATI (FOX19) - City leaders pulled back the reins Friday on an ambitious plan announced last week to close parts of some streets downtown and in Over-the-Rhine for outdoor restaurant seating.
In the city’s Friday media briefing, Mayor John Cranley voiced concern that the street and lane closures not become “an attractive nuisance to crowds” or encourage a “free-for-all feel" comparable to the city’s Opening Day atmosphere on Freedom Way.
It was that very atmosphere that apparently persuaded leadership at the Banks to resist street closures the program’s first weekend, according to the mayor.
Cranley then suggested it might take a month before Freedom Way saw any type of in-street dining. He also acknowledged by that point it might no longer be necessary due to the large indoor footprints of restaurants at the Banks as compared to the narrow plats of their Over-the-Rhine counterparts.
Ohio restaurants may reopen their indoor dining areas with appropriate social distancing May 21.
“Nothing about this is normal,” Cranley said, in the process throwing some cold water on the program he announced last Thursday.
Speaking to the in-street dining areas’ dividers — wide, orange and faintly less European than what some may have first envisioned — Cranley defended their use.
“We are making sure if you put a table on a street, it’s going to be safe,” he said.
Cranley also said the “biggest risk” is the space in the streets and sidewalks around the dining areas, for which city is responsible. The mayor promised to reevaluate the program as potential issues arise.
CPD Chief Eliot Isaac added the police department is working with the city’s health and fire departments to create a compliance team as more restaurants reopen.
The team, Isaac explained, exists to provide guidance and recommendations to the businesses, but also to respond to complaints from citizens.
According to city officials, 10 Over-the-Rhine restaurants have applied and been approved for expanded dining areas, while 10 applications are under review from restaurants at the Banks.
Fifteen applications have been submitted from restaurants in neighborhoods across the city. The city hopes to expedite those 15 applications next week.
In OTR, Senate, Abigail Street, Krueger’s, Bakersfield, The Mercer, and Pontiac BBQ will be taking over parking lanes in front of their businesses beginning Friday.
Restaurants can stay open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on the weekends.
Also included in Friday’s reopenings were personal services like hair salons, barberships, nail salons, day spas, tanning facilities, massage therapists, tattoo parlors and body-piercing shops.
Also at Friday’s briefing, Cincinnati Chamber Senior Vice President & COO Brandon Cull unveiled restartcincinnati.com.
The website exists to crowdsource information for restaurants and businesses as they reopen.
For example, a restaurant with a detailed reopening plan might upload that plan to the website, thus helping others in the industry with their reopenings.
Alternatively, a business that has retooled to make PPE might upload their new products to the website, where other local businesses can find and source from them.
The website also has information from the chamber’s Restart Task Force as well as the reopening plans of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
Cull describe it as “a great resource for folks who are trying to do things safely and prioritizing health.”
The city now has 838 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 39 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Health Commissioner Melba Moore.
According to the city’s coronavirus dashboard, 32 patients are currently hospitalized with the virus.
Over the last fortnight, the city is averaging 21 confirmed new cases, two confirmed hospitalizations, one confirmed death and 11 confirmed recoveries every day, Moore said.