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Omaha restaurants can open, but many are keeping dining rooms closed. Here's why

Omaha restaurants can open, but many are keeping dining rooms closed. Here's why

Restaurants and bars in Nebraska are finding new ways to reach their customers amid social distancing. 

A couple of longtime — and beloved — Omaha restaurants with large dining rooms are among several eateries in the Omaha area that didn’t open their dining rooms Monday.

The operators of Lo Sole Mio and Greek Islands announced that they would continue offering takeout only despite Gov. Pete Ricketts’ decision to allow restaurants to reopen with restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Restaurants throughout the area spent the past week making tough decisions about their immediate futures. Some are totally open. Some remain totally closed. Some, like Lo Sole Mio, decided to reopen with carryout only, and some will maintain the takeout status quo for now.

Lo Sole Mio, known for its large portions of tasty Italian food, has been dark since March, when the state established a 10-person cap on gatherings. It will reopen for takeout with an abbreviated curbside menu Tuesday, but the dining room will remain closed.

A message on the restaurant’s voicemail said owners decided not to serve people inside “until the virus restrictions permit better guidelines.”

Current rules allow restaurants to operate at 50% capacity with at least 6 feet between tables and parties of fewer than six people. All employees must wear masks.

Greek Islands owners said on Facebook that they decided to stick with carryout and delivery for the time being due to concerns about health and safety for patrons and workers. They didn’t indicate when they might start serving customers in the dining room. The restaurant, established by Greek immigrants, is popular with Omahans for its authentic cuisine.

“We will continue to reassess as businesses continue to reopen,” they said.

Nick Bartholomew delayed reopening his breakfast and lunch restaurant, Over Easy, so he could train employees on new procedures for the coronavirus era, such as ways to safely gather used dishes at tables. He’s rethinking his no-reservations policy to better assess how many people will be there at a given time.

“So we can control the madness,” he said.

He estimates that he might open his dining room in about a week and a half.

Paul Urban of Block 16, a small downtown restaurant that’s perpetually packed, said reopening his dining room won’t be feasible anytime soon.

“If we follow all the guidelines, we could only have a couple tables and then worry about long lines,” he said.

He also said takeout has been doing well, “knock on wood.”

Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob, a tiny and popular restaurant in Dundee, had been closed but reopened for takeout and drive-thru late last week.

The restaurant was so busy at about 12:45 p.m. Monday that a manager couldn’t talk to a reporter.

Yoshitomo owner David Utterback indicated on Facebook that he didn’t want to reopen before the Omaha area had hit its peak of COVID-19 cases. He said he would continue takeout and delivery as long as it was financially feasible.

Among other restaurants that won’t open dining rooms are Maru Sushi, Porky Butts, The Grey Plume, Marks Bistro, Nite Owl and Saddle Creek Breakfast Club.

No matter what their status, most of these restaurants and scores of others in the Omaha area still plan specials for Mother’s Day, traditionally a busy day in the food industry.

A list of restaurants open for takeout or dining in on Mother’s Day will be posted on If your restaurant would like to be included, email with details.

Omaha Dines: Here are the city's 38 essential restaurants

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Betsie covers a little bit of everything for The World-Herald's Living section, including theater, religion and anything else that might need attention. Phone: 402-444-1267.

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