Molly Wellmann Reopens Japp’s with New Social Distancing Practices

With health and safety in mind, the bar is back in business with reservation-only service, online ordering, and strategically placed plants to mark appropriate distancing.

Photograph by Victoria Moorwood

While nightlife is gradually returning to Cincinnati, bar culture is going to be noticeably different, as business owners and customers continue to avoid the spread of COVID-19. This weekend Molly Wellmann reopened her Over-the-Rhine bar Japp’s Since 1879 with new safety precautions in an effort to keep her staff and visitors safe.

“Going out is not going back to the usual right now,” Wellmann says. “It’s really important that we make sure our guests and staff are safe, while also giving a great experience. This is a change in culture of how you should be going out.”

Photograph by Victoria Moorwood

Wellmann decided to go above-and-beyond the statewide guidelines, reaching out to her customers on social media to ask what she could do to make them feel more comfortable going out. “The big thing is, how in the heck am I going to keep people who are drinking six feet apart from one another? It’s my responsibility in my space to make sure people are social distancing,” the award-winning mixologist explained.

A few of these tactics include closing off the bar, offering reservation-only service, and leaving an ample amount of space in between tables. To encourage social distancing, and make each table feel like its own “little oasis,” Wellmann has scattered lush plants throughout the bar.

“I’m also asking customers to show up in a mask out of respect for my employees, and then once they get to their table, I’ll give them a paper bag they can put their mask in while they’re sitting down,” she adds. 

Ordering drinks will be another change, as customers will be expected to order through a mobile app, which they can also use to pay for their drinks when they’re done. “I’m hoping those steps of less contact will help people feel a little more comfortable,” Wellmann says.

Photograph by Victoria Moorwood

Drinks will still be served in glassware, rather than plastic cups, and will be delivered to tables on a silver tray. Individually wrapped straws will also be provided upon customers’ requests.

“I’ve designed a really great menu with the cocktails that everyone knows and loves here, and the usual things like gin and tonics,” she says.

Although the seating arrangements, online ordering, and masks will be a culture shift for Japp’s, Wellmann, who’s ecstatic to be back behind the bar, believes these techniques will keep her guests and staff safe while providing a great experience.

“I know it’s different, but it’s really something we have to be responsible about to keep everyone as safe as possible,” she says. “In order to have a business that’s designed for gathering, we have to do it this way.”

Japp’s is accepting online reservations Tuesday through Sunday for groups of up to 10 for two-hour blocks 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Japp’s Since 1879, 1134 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 381-0674

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