Ohio closes bars, dine-in restaurants amid spread of coronavirus; carry-out, delivery still available

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Gov. Mike DeWine announced Sunday afternoon that all restaurants and bars will close for the immediate future to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

All restaurants with delivery and carry-out options will remain open, DeWine said.

It is currently unclear how long the closure will be in effect.

DeWine said he came to the decision after being contacted by citizens around the state sharing photos and stories of crowded bars Saturday night, despite warnings of social distancing and the governor’s edict limiting crowds to no larger than 100 people.

“Based upon all of this and based upon the fact of where we are at this point, in this pandemic — we are literally at a crucial, crucial, crucial stage — Dr. Acton will be signing an order that all bars in the state and all restaurants will close at 9 o’clock tonight,” DeWine said.

The governor added he does not know how long the closure will last.

“Carry-out food is still allowed and certainly encouraged,” DeWine said.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Sunday during the press conference that bars and restaurants can return their unopened high-proof liquors.

Bars and restaurants will take their unopened liquor to the agency where it was purchased. The agency would then call the Liquor Enterprise Center for approval. Husted said approval would be immediate, but that a record of the return was necessary.

DeWine will also sign an executive order allowing employees without paid leave benefits to access unemployment benefits during the emergency, Husted announced.

People quarantined by a health professional or by their employer will be considered unemployed, Husted added. They will not be held to the requirements to seek employment during this period.

“This will assist Ohio workers directly impacted by the COVID-19 health emergency,” Husted said.

For more information on the unemployment plan, click here.

Ohio Restaurant Association President and CEO John Baker released a statement Sunday that reads, in part:

We are exploring all possible federal, state and local relief and economic stimulus options, and plan to share those as quickly as possible. Our business concerns are focused on helping owners/operators, employees and consumers. Ohio restaurants are gearing up to offer great food via pick-up windows, carryout, curbside pickup and delivery. It’s important to remember we’re all in this together so restaurants are here now and after this crisis.” 

Ohio Restaurant Association President and CEO John Baker

In an interview Sunday, Baker said the changes are going to have a significant impact on all restaurant employees.

“Life is definitely gonna change for people depending on your position inside a restaurant,” he said. “And that’s probably one of our biggest concerns. We’re concerned as you can imagine with our owners and operators, GMs, people that make the decisions but all the employees.”

Baker estimated there are 580,000 restaurant and food service employees across the state, all of whom will have their hours changed dramatically.

“Essentially we want to try and take care of those folks so we can get through this, restaurants do as well as they can during all this and then come out of it so we have a place for everybody to arrive back once this is over, get the economy going again,” he said.

Baker went on to recommend that, where possible, employees who are going to be significantly impacted by the shutdown be transitioned to another position within the restaurant, suggesting curb runners or delivery drivers, in an effort to keep people working.

During an appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press earlier on Sunday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he is considering closing bars and restaurants as the state fights the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

When asked by host Chuck Todd if he is considering closing bars and restaurants, DeWine said he is looking into the possibility.

“We started off last week closing the schools,” DeWine said. “We’ve reduced the number of people gathered together to 100. We’ve restricted access to our nursing homes, to our prisons, so we’re taking tough steps.”

The Ohio Department of Health announced 37 confirmed cases of the virus in Ohio Sunday, up 10 from Saturday’s numbers. There are also 361 people under investigation, up from 264 Saturday.

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