COLUMBUS — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said during his daily coronavirus press conference Monday that law enforcement in the state will be checking safety compliance of bars and restaurants that re-open amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
DeWine said that reports have come in from all across the state of bars and restaurants not following the guidelines that were “laid down clearly.” The majority of bars and restaurants are following the rules, the governor said, but noted it’s not acceptable to have overcrowding that threatens to spread coronavirus and contribute to a second COVID-19 spike.
DeWine said the state is assembling “a large contingent of law enforcement and health officials from across state agencies and from our local communities” to conduct compliance checks and refer offenders for prosecution. Violators, among other potential penalties, could lose their liquor licenses.
“When we look at how restaurants and bars operate, distance is key,” DeWine said. “We got reports over the weekend that most were doing an amazing job. But, it’s clear that we have some outliers — businesses that were not doing what they should do.”
“We will coordinate with them as part of the Department of Public Safety’s Ohio Investigative Unit. They will surge in to conduct safety compliance checks in crowded bars and restaurants,” DeWine said. “They will issue administrative citations that could result in the revocation of liquor licenses. Further, we will work with municipal prosecutors to take potential criminal actions against these bad actors.”
Separately, local health departments can also issue warnings and citations, he said, noting particularly that Columbus so far has issued eight citations. DeWine said not only can restaurants be cited, but individuals can be cited as well if they violate the state’s reopening guidelines.
DeWine said while there is significant risk during the reopening of Ohio, there is also risk in not reopening.
“It’s up to all of us to open our economy but to do this in a safe way,” DeWine said.
Ohio’s restaurants and bars were permitted to reopen for outdoor services on May 15 and indoor dining resumes May 22.
As of Monday afternoon, Ohio has a total of 28,454 COVID-19 cases, and 1,657 deaths as a result of the virus.