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Lago East Bank in the Flats responds to photos showing little to no social distancing

Posted at 8:36 PM, May 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-17 23:35:27-04

CLEVELAND — After photos of people packed together on the restaurant’s patio were taken and the manager confirmed it was working to reduce the number of customers there, Lago East Bank said the photos were not an accurate representation of the precautions it has taken against the spread of COVID-19, that it is still able to provide a safe environment for customers and that it does not believe the responsibility to “control” guests falls on the restaurant.

The Italian restaurant and bar in the Flats was seen packed with customers on its patio Saturday night with little to no social distancing being implemented at the time.

Around 5:30 p.m., after being apparently overwhelmed with customers, the manager said that he had told the DJ on the patio to turn the music down. He also said that the staff was starting to cash customers out to encourage them to leave.

After photos of Saturday’s night on the patio circulated, the restaurant took to Facebook to issue a statement regarding their patio reopening.

The restaurant said that it has followed every guideline set by Gov. Mike DeWine and that it has encouraged guests to practice social distancing.

Lago East Bank said that controlling the guests was unrealistic and “exceedingly difficult” and said it is not an enforcement agency.

On Sunday, DeWine addressed the issue of overcrowded restaurants and bars during the first days of outdoor dining's reopening.

DeWine said officials will do “whatever we have to do” to enforce social distancing and other protective measures if bars and restaurants fail to restrain crowds as the state eases coronavirus measures.

DeWine press secretary Dan Tierney said operators of businesses disregarding safety guidelines “are being irresponsible and need to understand that these guidelines will be enforced.” Most Ohio bars and restaurants did “their part to follow best practices to keep patrons safe and socially distanced,” he said.

RELATED: Gov. Mike DeWine vows action if establishments don’t restrain crowds

Read the entire statement issued by Lago East Bank on the restaurant’s Facebook page:

First off we want to say that we are humbled and grateful for the overwhelming support that the community has shown Lago throughout this pandemic. We are so proud to be Clevelanders!

We have seen the pictures that have been posted and we certainly understand the concern accompanying those pictures. We also feel it is necessary to provide context.

Lago took great care to implement every guideline that has been set by the State of Ohio. All of our tables are properly spaced, and we have encouraged all of our guests to practice social distancing during our opening that tested those guidelines and we took immediate measures to thin the “crowded” areas. We believe we were able to provide a safe environment for all guests.

The pictures are one moment, one angle, one second of time. It in no way accurately reflects the time, money and effort that was put into preparing our business in line with the state guidelines within a week’s time. We were operating at a limited capacity for two months and we were excited to welcome back our guests. The recent criticism certainly does not reflect the additional precautions that we implemented that go far beyond the Governor’s guidelines, but we understand and will continue to adjust as necessary.

With that being said, we do not believe it is necessarily our responsibility to “control” our guests. It proved to be largely unrealistic and exceedingly difficult. We are not an enforcement agency. If the state provides further mandates that we must follow, we will certainly enact and follow those mandates.

Let us be clear, Lago is committed to ensure that the safety and welfare of our local community and staff is a top priority. We stand by that with our ongoing support of first responders through our Essential Meals program; delivering 1,000 meals a week currently. We will continue to provide our guests the best dining experience possible while making sure best practices and guidelines are followed. #LoveLago

RELATED: Patio, outdoor dining reopening in Ohio sees mixed results of social distancing

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