Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday he is seeking an emergency rule that would cut off daily sales of alcohol at 10 p.m. in bars, restaurants and other establishments to help fight the spread of coronavirus, although at least one Dayton pub owner believes the rule will disproportionately harm locally owned businesses.
The Ohio Liquor Control Commission is scheduled to have an emergency meeting at 9 a.m. today to consider the proposed rule. If it is approved, DeWine said he intends to sign an executive order that would make the new 10 p.m. cutoff time go into effect today.
Customers would have until 11 p.m. to finish consuming the alcoholic beverages they purchased before 10 p.m., the governor said.
“We do not want to shut down Ohio bars and restaurants, but we do have to take some action,” the governor said. “The businesses can stay open – but we believe stopping sales at 10 p.m. will help thin that crowd out and will help slow the spread.”
DeWine said bars, “by their nature, lend themselves to a revolving door of people in close contact, oftentimes indoors. ... Patrons either stay at one location, sometimes for hours, or bar-hop. Either way, they interact with many different people — especially the younger crowd.”
Steve Tieber, owner of The Dublin Pub in Dayton’s Oregon District, said many of the smaller bars in the Oregon District and elsewhere in downtown Dayton depend heavily on late-night weekend sales to survive.
“This is going go be a crushing blow to a lot of businesses, especially since the (federal) financial assistance is gone,” Tieber said. “Now you’re probably going to see owners who have to take out loans just to keep their businesses open.”
Tieber also believes the new sales curfew will disproportionately affect locally owned, independent restaurants and pubs.
“Most restaurant chains shut down at 10 p.m., but a big chunk of local establishments stay open until 11 or later,” the Dublin Pub owner said. “This will have a huge impact on those locally owned businesses.”
Jennifer Dean, co-owner of Mudlick Tap House in downtown Dayton, said the new rules will have minimal direct impact on her business, which already closes at 10 p.m. on weeknights, and stays open until 11 p.m. on weekends. But it will have a chilling effect on overall business, particularly in downtown Dayton, which has lost Dayton Dragons baseball games, concerts, theater performances and other live events and entertainment that brought thousands of people from throughout the region to downtown.
“These mandates cause fear in people, and then people don’t go out at all, and that affects all businesses,” Dean said. “I feel for the bars down here that don’t get a lot of business until late in the evening.”
Dean also noted that while the mandates for bars and restaurants are becoming more restrictive, she has to decide by this weekend whether to send her child to school this fall. And there is little talk of full-contact sports that are set to resume this fall.
DeWine said he has seen bars and restaurants working diligently to achieve social distance and keep their patrons safe, but a handful of establishments in the state are not following the guidelines.
According to Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County, when it comes to the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the risk level of an activity varies based on four main factors: whether it’s in an enclosed indoor space, the length of interaction between people, whether there’s a dense crowd or challenges for social distancing, and whether there’s a lot of forceful exhalation like yelling, singing or coughing.
Public health officials consider indoor bars and nightclubs as higher risk spaces during the pandemic because they have many of the factors that add risk, including an enclosed space, prolonged close contact and potential clustering of people, and yelling or people projecting their voice.
The governor did ease one restriction aimed at pickup and delivery of meals and alcoholic beverages. Instead of allowing diners to purchase two drinks per meal for carryout and delivery, the new order would allow for the sale of three drinks per meal.