SIDNEY — As Gov. Mike DeWine warned at his May 18 press conference, law enforcement officers who make up the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Investigative Unit (OIU) have been performing compliance checks at local bars and restaurants.
On May 21, two Shelby County businesses, Key Hole Pizza and Scudzy’s Newport Tavern, both in Fort Loramie, were checked for compliance by the OIU, a liquor enforcement agency.
Bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen for outdoor service on May 15 after being closed mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees must wear face protection. Guests are required to be seated. Tables must be separated 6 feet apart, and may not include more than 10 people.
Businesses not following the order signed by Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton may be cited, and could result in their liquor licenses being revoked.
Neither Fort Loramie business was cited, as both were following regulations in the order that allowed restaurants to begin to reopen.
Owner of Key Hole Pizza, Bob or “Key Hole Bob” Mescher, as he is known, said he was unaware task force officers came to his business.
“I’m trying to do the best I can and keep tables apart and follow the orders,” he said. “I am trying to do good and help keep the numbers (of people infected with coronavirus) down.”
DeWine said at his May 18 press conference the vast majority of restaurants were “doing an amazingly good job,” but decided to implement the task force due to a few outliers where customers were shoulder-to-shoulder with little or no social distancing.
“Protocols, the rules for reopening bars and restaurants, were laid down very, very clearly,” DeWine said during the press conference. “Our economic recovery is tied directly to how successful we are in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.”
DeWine said the guidelines about how to reopen restaurants and bars were drawn up by a team of both restaurant owners and medical experts.
Jordan Holscher, manager of Scudzy’s, also said they were unaware officers came through their bar.
“I didn’t know they were here. They never announced themselves. I’m guessing they just left (unannounced). — And I would have been working that day, too,” Holscher said. “I’m glad to know we passed.”
Task force officers conducted 638 compliance checks statewide on May 21 to ensure people were social distancing, wearing masks and having the allowable number of people within the establishment.
Chief Deputy Jim Frye said the Sheriff John Lenhart made it clear the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office will not be taking part in helping enforce compliance or issue bars or restaurants citations.
“We don’t believe this is Constitutional and therefore we are not endorsing this program and will not be part of it. It’s almost to the point that they are restricting the movement of the citizens. The Sheriff went to several establishments and informed them that this was being conducted and he suggested to them that they try to comply, and also informed them that the Sheriff’s Office would not be checking any establishments for compliance,” Frye said in an email.
“You would think that with the state cutting the state budget they would be more intune to focusing on real crime and not spending taxpayer dollars to police the people. Even though with COVID-19, we are still under an opioid crisis and with every agency across the state having to cut their budgets, resources are (spread) thin and we don’t need to be concerned about a person wearing a mask or being too close to someone else,” Frye continued.
Holscher said he can tell some people are still being cautious about going out, but business at Scudzy’s has been “picking up slowly but surely.”
Mescher has been vigilant in keeping with the Governor’s orders because he knows the virus is real. Mescher knows four people directly affected with COVID-19. He has made sure to keep tables apart and try to keep people as safe as possible in his establishment.
“People are not coming back in droves. I’ve got to get people’s confidence back to come out,” he said. “I hope (the coronavirus) doesn’t have a second (wave) and come back in the fall. Let’s all be careful.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.