NEWPORT – Keyhole Pizza in Newport, which has been closed since July 28 after owner Bob Mescher and an employee tested positive for COVID-19, is preparing to reopen.
Mescher hasn’t set a reopening date yet, but he’s confident the business will be ready to reopen soon as he’s now symptom free and everyone he’s been in contact with has tested negative for the virus. He feels good and is pleased that his actions prevented the virus from spreading further to his family, employees or customers.
“I ain’t worried about my reputation,” Mescher said. “I’m worried about getting people sick.”
Mescher isn’t certain how he contracted COVID-19 but suspects it likely was from an employee who attended a church camp that had an outbreak.
“I would have never gotten tested if my bar maid hadn’t told me that she had it,” he said, adding he’s been cautious and avoided high-risk activities during the pandemic.
Mescher’s first and only indication that he was infected was he lost his sense of smell, which he noticed while cleaning an ice machine with bleach.
His infection was confirmed by a rapid response test in Tipp City, and he immediately called his business and told the employees to shut it down.
“Slow the virus down. I did my part,” he said, saying it was his decision and not the health department’s to temporarily close Keyhole Pizza.
To ensure the test results were accurate, Mescher also had a COVID-19 test performed in Sidney that also returned positive.
All his employees and family members were tested, too. Everyone tested negative except for Mescher and the one employee.
The staff at Keyhole Pizza all have been following the health guidelines for slowing the spread of COVID-19, Mescher said, which includes spreading tables apart and having workers wear masks.
Keyhole Pizza can withstand the financial hit of being closed a couple weeks, although Mescher does feel for his employees. Temporarily losing business is a lot easier to deal with than the guilt he would have felt had he spread the disease, Mescher said.
“If somebody gets sick bad, that’s hard to get over,” he said.
Keyhole’s dine-in business has been down approximately 25 percent during the pandemic, Mescher said, but its carry-out orders are up about 50 percent.
“We’ve been really steady,” he said. “The dine-in hasn’t been as strong as it was, but the carry-out has made up the difference.”
Mescher doesn’t expect business to fully return to normal until there’s a vaccine and more people become comfortable being among crowds.
“We’ve just got to get the confidence back for people to dine-in,” he said. “People’s just not ready to be around people like that.”
When Mescher sets a reopening date, he’ll announce it on Keyhole Pizza’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/keyhole.bob.
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