COLUMBUS (WCMH) — “I’m going to go ahead and grant the temporary restraining order.”
With those words, Franklin County Judge Mark Serrott put a stop to Columbus’ ordinance to have all bars, restaurants, and nightclubs in the city close at 10 p.m. in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Serrott said he understands the ordinance means well but feels it overstepped some boundaries. He added it was random for the city to choose 10 p.m. as the closing time, and also thought the ordinance picked on these kinds of businesses for its gathering policies when other businesses like bowling alleys or churches might have similar issues.
Mayor Andrew Ginther’s office released a statement, which reads, in part:
“We’re disappointed, but will work with the City Attorney to exercise all of our legal options. We must all join together to fight the spread of COVID-19. Lives depend on it.”Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther
Columbus City Council unanimously passed the ordinance Monday night. By Tuesday morning, a lawsuit from several restaurants and bars in the city was filed, and a hearing was scheduled for the afternoon.
People were still out having a good time Tuesday night.
Bar owners, bartenders, and ever bar patrons said they understand why the city wanted the ordinance, but feel like they’re being punished for doing the right thing, even though there are cases where some businesses are not.
“This was a fight for us to continue to operate safely,” said Mickey Sorboro, founder of Late Night Slice.
Soboro is one of the plaintiffs in the suit. His business targets the late-night crowd.
He believe the proof is in the pudding that most bars are doing it the right way.
“We’ve had zero positive COVID cases, knock on wood,” Soboro said. “So we’re excited that we get to continue to operate no matter what the hours.”
“We’re following all the permutations, we’re doing everything that we’ve been asked to do and, like, enforcing it with employees and customers,” said Julian Denker, a bartender at Ethel and Tank.
Denker and fellow bartender Jessica Russell said their bar is handling the situation correctly, but know that can’t be said for others around the city.
That is something Columbus resident Grant Wareham has seen.
“I can definitely say from experience that I’ve seen and been around this area where the bars have been open, not many people are wearing masks in there anyway,” Wareham said. “They’re not really cracking down on it as much as you think they are.”
Which is why the City of Columbus wanted to limit the time people can go out to these establishments and not shut them down, saying Council doesn’t want the closing time to serve as a punishment.
“How other bars act definitely impacts what happens to us, too,” Russell said. “It definitely gets frustrating.”
During his coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, held before the court hearing, Gov. Mike DeWine applauded Columbus City Council’s ordinance and hinted there may be statewide orders for bars and restaurants announced later in the week. The governor’s next statehouse briefing is scheduled for Thursday.
There will be a hearing on the lawsuit in about two weeks, where both sides can argue their points. However, depending on what the state decides to do, that hearing may be postponed.