WEST CHESTER, Ohio — A political event hosted by Republican State Representative Jennifer Gross at Holtman's Donuts ended with West Chester police being called after attendees repeatedly violated COVID-19 protocols mandated by the state, according to Facebook posts from both Gross and Holtman's.
Holtman's said Gross and a crowd of 20 people arrived at the donut shop Saturday morning for a Facebook event called "Coffee Chat with Rep. Jennifer Gross." The local business posted to their Facebook page that Gross did not call ahead or obtain approval from the business for the event; in her own post, Gross claims she attempted to call ahead, but ultimately did not hear back from management.
The group gathered without observing social distancing protocols, Holtman's said, and later repeatedly walked around the shop mingling without wearing masks. Holtman's said the group spread out when asked to socially distance, but that attendees continued to stand or walk around the shop without wearing their masks.
Gross disputes some of Holtman's claims about the event, but did say she and others removed their masks while not seated during the event.
"After they finally spread out and started eating donuts and coffee (which is totally acceptable while being seated) a few started mingling and walking about without wearing masks," reads the post on Holtman's page. "The representative there conducting a meeting and standing without wearing a mask like we had asked."
"I asked if I stood if I had to wear a mask, even if I was drinking coffee, and the employee said that if I was STANDING I had to wear a mask, EVEN if I was drinking coffee," reads the post on Gross's page. "So, I sat in the middle on a chair, so I could drink my coffee and talk with them."
State mandates set down when restaurants were allowed to reopen to indoor dining in May 2020 state that no more than 10 people can be seated at a table together and masks must be worn unless patrons are seated and consuming food or drink. These rules currently remain in place.
Holtman's said management decided to call the non-emergency line for the West Chester Police Department after their team grew uncomfortable with the attendees repeatedly violating the business's "directions to keep a safe environment," their post said.
The local business said they were also concerned because several customers had complained, and a few had threatened to call the health department.
Gross's post, uploaded after Holtman's was posted, fired back, saying the business could have simply asked them to leave.
"Its a sad time when reason has become extinct. How do you eat donuts and drink coffee while talking with your friends with masks on? I'd love to support small businesses who support freedom," Gross' post reads.