Sorry, Ohio Restaurants and Bars: COVID-19 Restrictions Remain in Place for Now, DeWine Says

Science has shown that the coronavirus is easily transmitted through prolonged exposure indoors, especially with inadequate ventilation — a recipe for disaster in many bars and restaurants.

Apr 6, 2021 at 1:15 pm
Condado Tacos in pre-COVID times - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Condado Tacos in pre-COVID times

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine shared Monday that the state would lift its ban on mass outdoor gatherings and loosen other restrictions. The move is expected to provide Ohioans with hope for more spring and summer activities as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

But bar and restaurant owners in Ohio are asking when restrictions for their businesses will be lifted.

During an April 5 news conference, a reporter from Greene County noted frustrations from owners of hospitality establishments and asked the governor what he might be able to tell them. Restaurant and bar owners reportedly feel targeted with restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19, observing that other industries — such as department stores — aren’t dealing with as many restraints and aren’t as monitored, the reporter said.

DeWine noted that bars and restaurants primarily are indoor establishments where patrons are unmasked, unlike retail shops in which masks are worn for the duration.

Science has shown that the coronavirus is easily transmitted through respiratory droplets, with greater risk through prolonged exposure indoors and in spaces with inadequate ventilation.

“The reality is that bars and restaurants are different in the sense that people eat and drink, and when they eat and drink, they do not have masks on. That’s the fundamental difference,” DeWine said. “If you walk into virtually any retail establishment in Greene County, you’re going to see 90%-95% of the people wearing a mask, and they wear it all the time there. Going to a bar or restaurant, obviously people will take them off as they’re eating, and so that is fundamentally different.”

The Ohio Department of Public Health provides coronavirus safety guidance for establishments that serve food, including standard operating requirements and employee safety. 

Local health departments routinely inspect food-serving establishments and may serve citations for those that don’t follow safety guidelines, which generally include masking, social distancing and no large groups congregating together. These departments also were responsible for safety inspections before the pandemic began. Find your local health department here.

Indoor entertainment options in Ohio resumed at 25% capacity in February. The previous evening curfew also was lifted in February, providing more hours for late-night establishments to earn revenue.

DeWine said that because of their nature, Ohio bars and restaurants will continue to be held to capacity limits and safety regulations.

“Sadly, while the vast majority of bars and restaurants are doing a great job and comply (with state guidance), we continue to see week after week citations issued for establishments — bars — who are not in compliance,” DeWine said. “So again, we’re not in any way holding the vast majority of bars and saying they’re not doing a good job; the vast majority of them are. But their businesses just are inherently different, and that’s why we’ll continue to have people go out (for inspections).”

"I want to emphasize what we know today, and what we know today is these masks are powerful. If we can keep at the compliance rate that we are today, it will make a huge, huge difference," DeWine added.

Reports indicate that Ohio’s COVID-19 cases are rising once again after a short lull. In addition, nearby Michigan is dealing with a variant spike, which has spilled over the border to become a growing concern in Ohio.

In Ohio, there have been a total of 1,026,929 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 18,646 deaths as of April 5, according to the state's coronavirus dashboard. The 21-day reported hospitalization average is 86, and the 21-day reported ICU admission average is 9.

Watch DeWine's April 5 address.