Local bar, restaurant and gym owners react to DeWine’s closure threat

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Governor Mike DeWine stated in his address Wednesday evening that restaurants, bars and fitness centers could be forced to close if coronavirus numbers don’t go down. 

Many local business owners argue there isn’t much they can do in one weeks’ time that could change those numbers significantly. They also argue numbers are rising because of house parties and family gatherings that don’t take place in their establishments.

“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous and it’s embarrassing,” said Scott Ellsworth, owner of Threes on High and Fours on High. “You shut down bars and who goes to bars? Groups! These kids are leaving here and going to house parties.”

Gym owners like Ryan McFadyen from Ohio Strength are also up in arms.

“It’s very frustrating. We aren’t going to stand for it again this time around without taking legal action on our own,” McFadyen said. 

And many local restaurants and gyms simply can’t survive another shutdown. 

“It’s unrealistic to expect businesses to afford those kinds of things,” McFayden said.

His sentiment is something DeWine acknowledged during the address

“I’m well aware the burden this will place on employees and the burden it places on employers,” DeWine said.

Ellsworth believes the service industry shouldn’t be punished for the increasing cases of COVID-19.
McFadyen adds the state needs to give businesses a chance to demonstrate they are being safe and compliant.

“We operate a business by the CDC guidelines and people are never in close contact with each other,” McFadyen said.

Gov. DeWine said he will reassess the situation in one week and then determine what course of action to take concerning restaurants, bars and fitness centers.

“To think about that and constantly living in fear for your business,” Ellsworth said. “What are we doing to change in a week to be able to save our livelihood and our businesses?” 

The Ohio Restaurant Association released a special edition of their daily business impact letter saying in part:

This is a pact to operate safely for employees and guests with social distancing, barriers, face coverings, and cleaning and sanitizing. Ohio Public Safety and health officials have confirmed to us that restaurants are doing a great job.

In fact, there are few businesses or industries more regulated than restaurants and we are committed to operating safely. Any discussion of another restaurant closure is inconsistent with any science or contact tracing data that we have been provided, which continues to detail the greatest risk of transmission is occurring in private gatherings that are unregulated.

On Monday during the Governor’s press conference, Dr. Andrew Thomas said restaurants are not a major source of spread. Restaurant and foodservice operators in most segments of the industry have suffered greatly since the pandemic began and the state mandated restrictions. Many operators are facing sales down between -20% and -70% versus a year ago, with significant new costs for property, plant and equipment (PPE).

Some have asked the ORA about filing bankruptcy. The ORA, the National Restaurant Association and other state associations have been advocating for a new Federal relief bill and another round of the Paycheck Protection Program. However, talks are stalled in Congress and it doesn’t look like there will be progress in the near term.

Operators responding to the ORA’s Business Impact Poll are already deeply worried, and 56% do not believe their business can survive into 2021 under current conditions.”

Ohio Restaurant Association statement

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