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Lakewood debates mask mandate, capacity reduction for bars and restaurants

Lakewood masks
Posted at 9:35 PM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 23:24:11-04

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — It may soon be mandatory to wear a mask or face covering inside bars and restaurants in the city of Lakewood, and those businesses may also have to cut their capacity to 50% of what's allowed by the fire code.

Lakewood's mayor and city council members discussed the issue Monday night at a virtual council meeting but did not make a final decision on what to do, instead referring it to a committee for further discussion next Monday evening.

While some restaurant and bar owners are fine with the idea of further reducing capacity, others are not on board with that idea.

Jessica Parkison, co-owner of Salt, a restaurant in Lakewood, said Salt is following all the guidelines and has spent a lot of money to make the restaurant safe for staff and guests.

"We are struggling every single day. Every day," Parkison said.

Parkison said if the restrictions on capacity become reality, it would be a big hit to Salt's bottom line, as well as those of other restaurants.

"With bars, I know that it would be a little bit different, but for us, we really can’t take much more," Parkison said.

Salt reopened June 1 with lots of changes in place to meet new guidelines, including hand sanitizer stationed in several places around the restaurant. Staff and customers must wear masks or face coverings. They're cleaning restrooms and surfaces even more frequently. And, in the indoor dining room that seats 74 people, the restaurant is allowing just 41 people.

"In between each guest, we do a complete wipedown of every table and chair," Parkison said.

COVID-19 and all its effects have meant Salt's business is down 70 to 80%, according to Parkison. While she is fine with the potential mask mandate, she said the capacity reduction, if passed, may make operating Salt unsustainable.

"I know I’m not the only business owner going through this right now, and cutting the capacity like that would really affect us tremendously," she said.

Parkison said she wishes the city would trust restaurants who are doing things right and following the rules, instead of adding new ones.

"For the handful of restaurants or bars that aren’t abiding by that, for all of us to have to pay that cost, it’s not fair, it’s not good," Parkison said.

Parkison added that the city recently allowed restaurants to expand their patios, something that cost the restaurants money. She hopes that the city will consider excluding staff and patio capacity when reducing indoor capacity.

She noted that Salt currently has time limits in place for customers dining in, and she said those might have to be cut back further if there's a reduction in capacity.

"It also may force us to extend our hours longer to allow more guests to come through our doors," Parkison said.

Lakewood's mayor said during Monday's meeting that she wants to change the proposed legislation on capacity to allow restaurants that wish to expand to 75% capacity to file a site plan with the city's building department.

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