Columbus bars react to possibility of curfew changes

Coronavirus

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — With Gov. Mike DeWine outlining a plan that could get the statewide COVID-19 curfew changed, bar and restaurant owners now have something to look forward to.

Since the curfew was first put in place in November, bar and restaurant owners often said one of the hardest parts about it was not knowing when it would end.

Now, changes to the curfew could be coming as soon as Thursday, should Ohio reach certain benchmarks regarding COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state.

Camelot Cellars and Saucy Brew Works sit in different Columbus neighborhoods — one is in Old Town East and the other is in Harrison West.

But parts of their stories are similar as both are new business that opened in just the past few months, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Yeah, the timing was horrible,” said Justin Gardner, Saucy Brew Works’ restaurant manager.

Both businesses are finding ways to work within the curfew.

“The curfew has been really tough,” Gardner said. “When you think about an extra hour or two a night, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s kind of a lifeline to a small business.”

Gardner might be getting that lifeline in a couple of days.

On Tuesday, DeWine announced that if daily coronavirus hospitalizations are under 3,500 for seven days in a row, the curfew will be pushed back from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. for at least two weeks. As of Tuesday, Ohio has been under 3,500 hospitalizations for six days, so that change could come Thursday.

“That’s going to go up, the minute he says, ’11’ is the minute that it’ll be on the sign at 11 and put out,” said Renard Green, owner of Camelot Cellars.

If daily hospitalizations drop to below 3,000 for a week, the curfew would be pushed back to midnight for at least two weeks, and if hospitalizations drop under 2,500 for a week, the Ohio Department of Health would recommend lifting the curfew.

“It’s been a really long time coming for a lot of restaurants,” Gardner said.

While a shortened curfew would mean more time for pouring drinks and serving food, Green said the plans finally give those in the industry numbers to look at instead of having no idea when the curfew might be taken away.

“Metrics are always important,” Green said. “To finally have something that we can look and I can look at a number and say, ‘OK, if this happens, then this should be done,’ it’s going to be amazing for us because that allows us to plan better and strategize around it.”

DeWine said that if at any point hospitalizations start rising again, a longer curfew could be put back in place.

The governor is also reminding Ohioans that they must continue to follow protocols regarding masks and social distancing even if the curfew is changed.

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