DeWine seeks liquor sales changes as Butler County stays at Level 2

Gov. Mike DeWine is asking the Ohio Liquor Control Commission to consider a proposed emergency measure to cut all alcohol sales off at Ohio bars and restaurants by 10 p.m. every day.

The commission is set to meet at 9 a.m. today to consider DeWine’s request. It specifies that if patrons are served by 10 a.m. they must consume that drink by 11 p.m. Additionally, the proposal would increase carryout sales of unopened alcoholic beverages from two to three drinks per order. If approved, the restriction would take effect tonight.

“We do not want to shut down Ohio bars and restaurants, that would be devastating to them, but we do have to take some action and see what kind of results we can get from this action,” DeWine said.

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The request comes as Ohio has seen novel coronavirus outbreaks at bars in major cities, including Toledo, Cleveland and Columbus. He said most bar owners “are doing a phenomenal job” at enforcing safety protocols, such as social distancing guidelines, but not every bar is as diligent.

“This virus is just vicious,” DeWine said. “It does not care who you are.”

Last week, DeWine said the Ohio investigative unit found bars where no social distancing or safety measures were in place. Outdoor patios were in many cases packed, and dance floors had people shoulder-to-shoulder.

DeWine shared one case that he said showed how easily the virus spreads. A woman in her 20s joined friends earlier this month on a weekend night and went to multiple bars around a college campus. She went home more than two hours away and developed COVID-19 symptoms. Her parents, brother and grandmother got sick, he said. They have all since recovered.

The governor said there are “some inherent problems” connected to bars as patrons are often in close contact with each other, people enter and leave establishments throughout the night, and many visit multiple bars throughout the evening.

“This virus is just vicious. It does not care who you are."

- Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine

“They are interacting with a lot of different people, and this is especially true with our younger crowd,” he said.

COVID-19 spread is increasing across the state, as 88 percent of the state’s population lives in a county at a public health emergency Level 3 (red) or Level 2 (orange). There have been more than 89,600 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases in Ohio, and more than 3,400 residents are suspected to have died from the virus. There are more than 2,600 confirmed and probable virus cases in Butler County, and 55 county residents have died.

Butler County, which was close to moving to a Level 4 public health emergency just a few weeks ago, is one of the 52 counties at a Level 2. There are 13 Ohio counties at Level 3, which is 10 less than last week.

DeWine said it’s good news there are fewer counties at the red level, and there is “a significant decrease” in urban counties, they’re still seeing cases at a high rate of infection.

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“They’re still at a high right, but that rate increase has certainly slowed down,” he said, attributing to the slow down to compliance with mask-wearing protocols in place for a significant time.

While fewer counties are at Level 3, more counties have jumped from Level 1 to Level 2 which means it’s spreading across the state, DeWine said. Most of the spread is in the rural areas “where the mask-wearing is much, much less” than the urban areas.

DeWine said the “spread will continue” across Ohio if safety protocols, including mask-wearing, are not in practice. He said during a weekend conversation with Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator told him, “Look, this will not slow down if something does not slow it down, and mask-wearing will slow it down.”

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