Struggling bars, restaurants seek later alcohol curfew

Ohio Restaurant Association asks for midnight deadline as sports resume

The Ohio Restaurant Association has formally asked Gov. Mike DeWine to push back Ohio’s current 10 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales to midnight, and several Dayton-area bar and restaurant owners support the request, saying the future of several local businesses is at stake.

“This industry needs the additional hours to survive,” said Steve Tieber, owner of the Dublin Pub in Dayton’s Oregon District.

In his letter to DeWine, Ohio Restaurant Association President and CEO John Barker said his association’s surveys show half of Ohio’s restaurant owners and operators “don’t expect their businesses to survive into 2021 if conditions stay the same.”

Restaurants and bars were already grappling with severely reduced seating capacity caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing recommended to avoid the spread of COVID-19, and their recovery from a two-month mandatory shutdown of dine-in service took another hit when the 10 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales took effect on July 31.

The rule was enacted with the goal of thinning out crowds earlier to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are seeing a very negative impact due to the 10 p.m. restriction,” said Dan Apolito, co-founder of Archer’s Tavern, which operates locations in Centerville and Kettering. “Not only are guests not coming in after 10 p.m., we are seeing a considerable reduction in guest counts beginning around 8 p.m. It’s affecting bartenders, servers and cooks who rely on the last few hours of the day to make money. We are now closing at 10:30 instead of midnight on weekends because there is little to no business during times when our bar area used to be full.”

Tieber noted that most chain restaurants close by 10 p.m., and thus “are barely affected by this restriction on operating hours. Locally owned businesses are the most affected because they rely on the weekend sales to effectively make a profit. ... Weekend sales are the lifeline to our industry.”

Sales at Club Evolution, a dance nightclub in downtown Dayton, are down 80% since the 10 p.m. alcohol sales curfew took effect, Michael Manes, the club’s general manager, told this news outlet.

“We have seen no data that suggests these restrictions have done anything to impede the spread of COVID-19,” Manes said. “Furthermore, no data was ever presented by the state of Ohio that proved operating without liquor sales restrictions increased the spread of COVID-19. We definitely support the restaurant association’s request” to extend the sales curfew to midnight, Manes said.

Diane Spitzig, owner of downtown Dayton’s Century Bar, said her nationally recognized bourbon destination has to turn away potential customers at 9:30 p.m. for social-distancing reasons, “as everyone is rushing to get drinks before the curfew.”

“If they could dine later and stop in for their after-dinner drink later, we wouldn’t lose those customers,” Spitzig said.

Moving back the current 10 p.m. curfew for the sale of alcohol “is a critical priority,” the Ohio Restaurant Association president said in his letter to DeWine.

“We feel strongly about making this change as soon as possible,” Barker said, noting that political gridlock in Washington D.C. scuttled recent attempts at a second federal aid package. In addition, COVID-19 cases have leveled, hospitalizations have declined and the positivity rate for COVID-19 testing has dropped, Barker said.

“It is also worth noting that as professional and college sports are regularly back on TV, other states, including our border states of Kentucky and Pennsylvania, are moving their curfews later and loosening some other restrictions,” he said.

Gov. DeWine has yet to respond to the Ohio Restaurant Association’s request.

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