While Casa Nueva has been open for carryout during the pandemic, it has now decided it is safe to reopen its dine-in services, doing so Nov. 13.

Casa, 6 W. State St., will have its dine-in services in the cantina —or bar area — instead of their dining rooms. While the setup looks different, Casa staff is excited for people to visit and dine-in, Grace Corbin, Casa marketing coordinator, said.

Casa lost about half of its revenue from not having dine-in options available. This was from a number of factors, including the loss of Ohio University’s popular weekends, such as Dad’s Weekend and HOUmecoming. Whether OU students are on campus or away from campus helps to determine the amount of revenue Casa receives. The weather has also been a factor, Corbin said.

Casa is hoping to earn more with indoor dining, but it understands the community might not be ready to participate in indoor dining just yet. Some customers Corbin has spoken to have been quite apprehensive about the idea of eating indoors.

“Our main task is building confidence that they will be safe if they're here,” Corbin said.

The hours that Casa is operating during for dine-in services differ from those for carryout. Hours for dine-in services are Friday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Anyone who wants to dine inside Casa can call to make a reservation at 740-592-2016, Corbin said. 

Casa’s door will remain locked so people without reservations are not able to enter. Before guests with reservations go to Casa, they are told about the policies, including that they must wear a mask. When the guests get to Casa, the door will be opened for them, Corbin said.

Casa made its own guidelines to follow while also following the mandated rules from the Ohio Department of Health. The restaurant has a rigorous sanitation procedure for the chairs, tables and other surfaces that customers touch while they are sitting. As soon as a customer leaves a table, it gets cleaned and prepped for the next group to take over. The bathroom will be constantly hit with sanitation as well, Corbin said.

Restaurants in Athens chose on their own whether they want to keep offering carryout only, or if they want to introduce dine-in services, Jack Pepper, Athens City-County Health Department administrator, said.

Restaurants are not required to have the health department inspect it before opening. However, inspections are offered as a courtesy for restaurants if they have any questions or want to make sure their layout is good, Pepper said.

“We have worked very quickly with our local county-city health department ... and I showed them around our new dining room setup and they seemed happy about it,” Corbin said.

The Ohio Department of Health has guidelines that restaurants and bars have to follow. Face coverings must be worn at all times unless the patrons are seated and eating. Employees must wear masks as well to ensure the safety of the guests and other employees.

Face coverings must be a piece of fabric that covers the mouth, nose and chin, according to the Ohio Department of Health. 

If an employee is not wearing a mask, the business must have a written justification as to why that employee is not wearing a mask, at the request of local health officials. 

There should be a distance of at least six feet between the guests while they are dining and while they are waiting to be seated. If this distance cannot be managed for some reason, barriers can be used to help separate the guests. Hand washing stations must be accessible during the duration of a guest’s time in the restaurant, according to the Ohio Department of Health guidelines. 

“All of our restaurants have put their best foot forward to meet or exceed the Responsible Restart Ohio Guidance, including Casa,” Pepper said in an email.