Bars, Restaurants And Patrons Not Following Safety Rules Could Face Trouble

May 18, 2020

Gov. Mike DeWine is warning bars and restaurants that those who don't follow safety guidelines could risk losing their liquor licenses and even face possible criminal charges. The announcement comes after reports and photos circulated of crowded patios on the first night outdoor dining was allowed since March 15.

The state confirmed 1,504 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. With 32 new deaths, that's a 113% increase after a weekend where deaths were down.

In his first briefing since Thursday, DeWine said it’s clear from reports over the weekend that the majority of restaurants and bars followed the right protocols. But he said the protocols that were developed by a working group of restaurant owners and operators were also clear - including one provision that customers stay seated to make sure people don’t mingle around and disregard social distancing.

DeWine said he's gathering resources of law enforcement and health officials to be part of Department of the Ohio Department of Health’s Ohio Investigatory Unit to check into complaints.

"Stopping the spread. Interrupting the spread of coronavirus will determine how successful we are in opening up our economy. These two are tied together," says DeWine, noting that investigations could result in revoking liquor licenses and even criminal charges.

DeWine said even customers at a business could face criminal charges, if they don't comply with the rules.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said enforcement is "the last straw", but if people can't or won't comply, it will happen. And he said local officials can go above and beyond the state standard and set stricter standards.

DeWine announced on Monday that the state will conduct widespread COVID-19 tests at three facilities:

  • Twin Valley Behavioral Health Hospital, Columbus
  • Ohio Department of Veterans Services nursing home, Sandusky
  • Ohio Department of Veterans Services nursing home, Georgetown

Staff at the Twin Valley Behavioral Health Hospital are also being urged to be tested. For the Ohio Veterans Homes, nearly everyone in both facilities (more than 700 staff members, 500 nursing home residents) were tested last week and over the weekend.