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Calling Ahead: Why many Columbus bars are turning to reservation systems during COVID

Calling Ahead: Why many Columbus bars are turning to reservation systems during COVID

Jack McLaughlin

Swinging by your favorite game day spot to catch a Blue Jackets game, or just to grab a drink with friends on the weekend? You might want to make a reservation. 

While calling ahead is usually reserved for your favorite restaurants, many Columbus bars are beginning to implement a reservation system in order to make sure their patrons are safe during the pandemic.

“We’ve been very calculated from the beginning about the reservation system. People see us as a dive bar, but our main goal has always been and always will be to keep people safe,” said Scott Ellsworth, owner of the north campus bar Threes Above High. “We wanted an easy way for customers to come in and still feel safe, but we also didn’t want a crazy rush as soon as we opened and not knowing where everyone would go or if they’d even get in.”

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Threes Above High began this practice when Columbus bars were allowed to re-open this summer. Ellsworth and his staff have worked to develop a spacing system used by the establishment that breaks the bar down into 21 different socially-distanced sections with barriers in place between many of them. When all of these are completely full, general manager Aaron Thompson says, Threes Above High can hold roughly 135 people.

To reserve spots, patrons simply DM the bar on Twitter or Instagram with what time they’ll be stopping by, and how many people will be in their party. 

The system in place at Threes Above High has seen immediate success, so much so that you can expect to see it in place after (fingers crossed) things return to normal.

“It seems like a pretty popular idea that a lot of people are behind. It has been great,” said Thompson. “It helps us maximize what we are working with and makes customers plan ahead and feel safe. We will definitely use it in the future even after COVID.”

Other Columbus establishments are also utilizing this reservation system with equal success. If you want to grab a drink at The Citizens Trust—located in Uptown above Veritas—you’ll need to prearrange seating for your party as well.

According to bar manager Lindsey Gerhard, you can reserve a table in one-hour slots for up to eight people. And while it costs $15 per person to do so, this fee buys every guest their first drink. The Citizens Trust uses Tock, a third-party service allowing patrons to select their time and group size. This then automatically plots them at the bar’s best available table within that time slot.

And while these reservation systems for Columbus largely came about due to COVID-19, Gerhard believes they offer benefits outside of safety alone.

“The reason it has been so successful for both our staff and guests is that we are able to keep safety standards and practices in place while also giving the guest a more personalized experience for their group,” she said. “It made sure that if a larger group would like to come in, they are guaranteed a spot as well as their first round of cocktails prepared.”

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