COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus Public Health is calling on bars in the city to help slow the recent rise in COVID-19 cases. At the same press conference the city’s mask mandate was announced, Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Robert’s also asked bars to reduce occupancy to 50 percent and limit hours.
“I’m hoping they will,” Dr. Roberts said. “I want our community to be able to enjoy their summer as much as they can given the pandemic but we all have to do it responsibly.”
According to Dr. Roberts, the highest number of cases is in the 20 to 39-year-old age group. Dr. Roberts says packed bars not following social distancing could be part of the reason for the increase in cases. A letter was sent to Columbus bars explaining what is being asked of them.
“While these interventions are currently a recommendation, we may have to take more drastic and mandatory steps in the near future if we continue to see increasing cases and bars that are not cooperating with social distancing,” the letter reads.
Several bar owners say they are already under 50 percent occupancy because they are following social distancing rules.
“The safety for people is number one. Personally, I’m down for whatever is better for the public health,” said Matthew Carroll, manager at Plank’s Bier Garten in German Village. “This spike has got a lot of people nervous. We’re nervous here that they might shut us down again. It’s scary. We’re doing the best we can to provide and be safe for all of our customers.”
The situation is similar at Zeno’s in Victorian Village.
“I think we were all kind of going into it expecting something to happen, kind of worried about the unknown and when you hear it, it sounds drastic — 50 percent reduced hours,” said Quinn Allen, owner of Zeno’s. “But after I think everyone went back and looked at what we were dealing with, most of us were already in that compliance if not well below.”
NBC4 asked Franklin County Public Health if it’s considering sending a similar letter out to bars. A spokesperson said that is not being planned at this point.