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Ohio Restaurant/Bar Group Pushes Back On Possibility DeWine Will Order Shutdown

A restaurant in downtown Cleveland with plexiglass dividers and heat lamps set up for outdoor dining.
Karen Kasler
A restaurant in downtown Cleveland with plexiglass dividers and heat lamps set up for outdoor dining.

More than a half a million people work in Ohio’s bar and restaurant industry, which is pushing back on an announcement from Gov. Mike DeWine in his statewide address Wednesday that he would consider shutting down those establishments next week if the state’s COVID-19 numbers don’t improve.

Ohio Restaurant Association President and CEO John Barker said his membersare on board with COVID rules and have embraced heightened enforcement, especially from liquor control.  

“If you've looked at what's going on, there have been a drumbeat of suspensions, fines andtaking away licenses completely. And we have been 100% with the governor and with Public Safety on that," Barker said.

Barker noted medical experts said in DeWine’spress conference Monday that bars and restaurants are taking the rules seriously and that the spread is happening through social gatherings.

And Barker said with no relief bill in sight from Congress, and with so many businesses running short of revenue, restaurants and bars have shared their concerns in a flood of communications. 

“We've gotten somewhere in the hundreds and probably now over a thousand, quite honestly, emails, calls and texts from the restaurant community, across the board, they find this just completely unfair to even signal out an industry to identify," Barker said.

Barker said his group will present ideas beyond a shutdown. Some of those coming from members include instituting fines or making arrests for not wearing masks and immediate closures for businesses not following COVID rules. 

On Thursday, Ohio recorded its eighteenth day of record hospitalizations for COVID, with 3,024 Ohioans in the hospital, taking up more than 11% of the state's hospital beds. 756 are in intensive care - double the number in the ICU two weeks ago.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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