by Todd DeFeo
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he is forming a pair of advisory groups tasked with developing best practices for reopening dine-in restaurants, barbershops and salons.
The group will develop recommendations to protect the health of employees and customers as businesses reopen. It will be comprised of relevant business associations, Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford; Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina; House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron; and Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights.
The move comes after DeWine announced the state will begin to reopen in phases starting Friday. This week, the governor said that while the government will require employees to wear a face mask, it will not require retail establishment patrons to wear one, an about-face from an earlier requirement.
“As Governor, it is my responsibility to make the tough decisions, but it is also my responsibility to listen and be respectful of the thoughts and ideas of our fellow Ohioans,” DeWine said in a news release. “Though it is not a mandate, wearing a face covering in retail locations is clearly in the best interest of all Ohioans. This gives added protection to others. When you wear a mask, you are protecting those around you from possibly getting sick.”
Meanwhile, the Ohio Restaurant Association asked for state officials to give the industry two weeks’ notice of a reopening date and to allow restaurants to start offering social distanced dine-in service on May 15. The organization estimates 300,000 restaurant employees have been furloughed or laid off since March.
“Ohio restaurants, working closely and in partnership with the local health inspectors who regulate our industry, have always operated with an extreme focus on safety – food safety, employee safety and guest safety,” Ohio Restaurant Association President & CEO John Barker said in a news release. “As Ohio businesses begin to reopen, restaurants are able to safely offer dine in service, with appropriate social distancing added to all of the procedures we will follow to keep our employees and our guests safe.”
The Buckeye Institute offered a similar sentiment in their new “Policy Solutions for the Pandemic: Roadmap to Reopen Ohio Safely” memo, which aims to guide policymakers along the “road back to normal.”
The think tank, in part, wants state policymakers to help “restaurants and bars regain lost revenues by continuing to allow establishments with existing liquor licenses to sell and deliver alcohol on carryout menus with no arbitrary limits,” co-authors Rea S. Hederman Jr. and Greg R. Lawson wrote.
“Allow restaurants and bars with outdoor seating to serve guests outdoors soon,” they added. “Various factors limit virus exposure outdoors, so establishments that can serve customers outside and adhere to social distancing guidelines should reopen earlier than restaurants without outdoor seating. Louisiana recently adopted this approach. Local jurisdictions should amend regulatory restrictions on restaurant patios to help these businesses recover.”
As of Tuesday evening, Ohio had 16,769 “confirmed and probable cases” of COVID-19 and 799 “confirmed and probable” deaths.
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Todd DeFeo is a contributor to The Center Square.