CINCINNATI — After reports of overcrowding and a lack of social distancing in OTR bars circulated online and on social media Friday night, Mayor John Cranley issued a statement saying enforcement on bars will be enhanced moving forward and bars not in compliance will be shut down.
"Despite widespread compliance, there were a few bars that clearly did not follow the requirement that all patrons have seats and that parties must be no bigger than 10 and that tables be at least 6 feet apart," the statement reads. "As a result, this morning I met with the city manager, police, health and law department leadership to discuss enforcement actions. Tonight, enforcement will be enhanced and bars can and will be shut down if necessary to protect the public health. In addition, depending on the situation, fines will be issued and other legal actions may be taken. To any bar that is not following the state orders, consider yourself warned."
Several photos circulated on social media showing large crowds packed closely together at Downtown and OTR bars The Blind Pig and Rosedale after bars were permitted to open outdoor services starting Friday.
The Blind Pig posted to its Facebook page Saturday afternoon, addressing the social media photos that showed the bar full of patrons packed together on their patio. The bar said it's working to fix the issue moving forward, explaining that they were simply not prepared or well-staffed enough to handle the large crowds that appeared Friday night.
Bob Deck, managing partner and owner of Rosedale, said the reopening process has been a challenge, because it's something most bars have never had to do before. Photos of Rosedale from Friday night also showed a full patio with patrons standing close together both at the bar and outside. Rosedale said it intentionally spread out seating at their bar, but found it difficult to get customers to follow the boundaries and social distancing guidelines.
"We’ll have to keep making changes everyday just because it’s so new and no one’s ever done this before," said Deck. "To really get down how it’s going to work and what’s going to work. Hopefully, we’ll be able to create best practices for our industry."
For Saturday, Rosedale plans to eliminate seating altogether and add extra signs to make the rules more clear to customers. Deck said if they have to ask customers to leave for not following the rules, they will do that moving forward.
Deck said the business' ownership group is only opening Rosedale for the time being as they work through the logistics the new rules and create a solid system; Once that's happened, the group eventually plans to reopen other spots like the Lackman, Igby's or Stretch.
"It’s going to take a minute for everybody to kind of get used to it," said Deck. "But I think it’s important that we have a balance of safety and also that we start to open up our economy."
Governor Mike DeWine's spokesperson, Dan Tierney, also issued a statement about reports of crowded bars throughout the state, applauding the steps many bars and restaurants have taken to enforce social distancing and sanitization requirements. Tierney also said they are aware of anecdotes about establishments that allegedly ignored the safety guidelines. In his statement, he called those operating businesses in a way that doesn't comply "irresponsible" and warned that the guidelines will be enforced.
The statement, in full, reads:
Ohio was able to responsibly reopen businesses quickly due to the fact that Ohioans have widely followed the expert guidance to socially distance, practice proper sanitization and hygiene, and avoid unnecessary contact with others. Ohio is a success story for following these protocols.
As restaurants and bars opened yesterday for patio service, we know many establishments across Ohio are doing their part to follow best practices to keep patrons safe and socially distanced. However, anecdotes are also being distributed across the state about establishments that opened and allegedly ignored these safety guidelines.
Those who operate their businesses while disregarding safety guidelines, designed to protect the health of their customers and all Ohioans, are being irresponsible and need to understand that these guidelines will be enforced.