COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday that he will be proposing that the Ohio Liquor Control Commission hold an emergency meeting to consider enacting a statewide emergency rule to stop alcohol sales at 10 p.m. each night in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus.
"We do not want to shut down Ohio bars and restaurants. That would be devastating to them," DeWine said. "But we do have to take some action."
The rule, if enacted, would prevent the sale of alcohol at all liquor permitted establishments beginning at 10 p.m. each night with the completion of all consumption by 11 p.m.
DeWine said he believes such a rule would help to thin the crowds at bars, mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
The Ohio Liquor Control will hold the emergency meeting to decide if the rule will be enacted Friday morning at 9 a.m., DeWine said. If enacted, the rule would go into effect Friday evening, after DeWine signs the order.
The order comes one week after DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health mandated masks in indoor public spaces statewide, and after the governor said during a COVID-19 briefing that bars are increasingly becoming a hub of transmission for the disease.
DeWine cited an outbreak of 53 cases tracing back to an event at a Henry County winery.
Put-in-Bay has been held up as another example of how bars may play a role of spreading the novel coronavirus: a mass test of the island detected cases in 66 employees on the island, and six bars have been cited by the state for COVID-19-related violations since June 1.
The Ohio Capital Journal reported that, on Saturday, bars on the island were filled up as usual, in spite of enforcement.
Sam McNulty, owner of Market Garden Brewery and Nano Brew Cleveland is concerned if the 10 p.m. alcohol shutdown order becomes a reality, it could cause more downtown businesses to close.
McNulty said it's unfortunate a few night spots not following COVID-19 safety guidelines could end up hurting establishments that are taking all of the proper safety precautions.
“Will it be difficult for us in the hospitality industry, there is no question,” McNulty said.
“All of the restrictions have already been devastating to our revenue stream, this is going to make it even more difficult.”
“We’re going to open up a little bit earlier, 11 a.m. on weekends, 3 p.m. during the week, to help with the anticipated loss in revenue."
“So it’s like there is always that one bad apple that spoils the bushel, there have been some restaurants and bars like that. ”
"Enforce to the lowest common denominator, and I think those bad apples are dragging the entire industry down unfortunately.”
Donna Skoda, commissioner with Summit County Public Health told News 5 she believes the alcohol sales restriction would curb the growing number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
“People drink a little more and become more relaxed, and then start taking off masks," Skoda said.
“We have had, again, several outbreaks.”
“Gov. DeWine is just making sure that we don’t become a Florida or a Texas.”
There is quantitative data to support this claim as well: in July, 7,000 Ohioans between 20 and 29 years old have contracted the disease, far beyond any other age group.