LIMA — Another domino fell Sunday as Ohio fights the new coronavirus.
Sunday afternoon, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the decision to close all bars and restaurants at 9 p.m. Sunday until further notice.
The establishments can still sell food on a carry-out, drive-thru or delivery basis. He gave the example of a customer walking in to buy a doughnut or cup of coffee. This would be allowed, if they leave immediately after. Customer seating is not allowed.
“Our goal is for everyone to get through this. What we wish is that next St. Patrick’s Day, everybody will be there,” DeWine said, explaining he received reports from around the state of bars being full Saturday night. “Delay means more people will die.”
Workers who are laid off can apply and get unemployment compensation right away, without waiting the normal one- week period before benefits can be paid.
Establishments are now able to return unopened bottles of high-proof liquor purchased in the last 30 days, as Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said they likely purchased extra for St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness. Bar owners may call 877-812-0013 for details.
Lima-area restaurants are still evaluating their next steps.
“I don’t have time tonight to talk to anybody,” said John Heaphy, owner of Happy Daz restaurants as well as Beer Barrel Pizza and Old City Prime. “I’ve got my hands full. I’ve got 15 restaurants and 1,200 employees in nine different cities. So I’m in crisis mode at the moment.”
A posting to the Happy Daz Facebook page which was published Saturday anticipated the possibility of stricter measures.
“The health and safety of our guests and staff is our highest priority and we are working day in and day out to monitor the situation, follow the advice of federal, state and local health officials, and take proper precautions to limit the spread of the virus while continuing to serve our communities.
This is a challenging situation for all of us; our families, our businesses, our community and our nation. As a local, family-owned company we feel a special responsibility to our staff, our customers and our community. We have been hard at work over the last several weeks, preparing for the current situation and rest assured that the best interests of our staff and our community are front and center.
We understand that depending on the guidance of health officials, as well as the health status of our customers, some people may be restricted from joining us in our dining rooms over the next several weeks. Please know, that our drive-through and carryout operations will be ready to provide the comforting and delicious food that we know many of you love and rely on.”
Kewpee Hamburgers is also affected.
“We’re in uncharted waters,” said Scott Shutt, general manager of Kewpee Hamburgers. “This virus, according to medical professionals, is something that we shouldn’t take lightly. It’s certainly going to be difficult for all restaurant operators as well as customers, but at this point, carry out, drive-thrus will continue to be available. Hopefully, we can stop the spread of this so we can all hopefully get back to our normal routines and lives.”
As for how this might affect their workforce, Shutt is uncertain going forward.
“We’ll have to go day by day and see what’s happening. This is a very fluid situation. Everybody’s just going to have to try to do their best and hopefully work together. No one wants to see anybody sick, or worse yet, lose a loved one. We’ll get through this all together,” Shutt said.
Also at the news conference, officials said a loan program will be unveiled soon to help small businesses and not-for-profits during this time of economic hardship.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.