EXCLUSIVE: Three Friends Form New Venture to Tell Story of Central Ohio Businesses Battered by COVID Restrictions


COLUMBUS, Ohio – It was spring of 2020 and three friends were sitting in their regular gathering place in the Short North – the district just north of downtown Columbus.

“We were looking around at all these businesses downtown; boarded up, closed or empty – more employees than customers,” said Lad Dilgard, a management consultant and real estate investor.

He continued, “behind every one of those is a story; the story of an entrepreneur, manager, supplier, landlord, employees and customers. There are horror stories going on. COVID-craziness with all the lockdowns.  We wanted to give businesses some visibility. What they’re going through and the collateral damage they are suffering.”

Fast forward to March 2021.

After weekly Saturday morning sessions during which one of the three buddies would bring breakfast and another lunch, the trio released a short film under the banner of their own production company, Fire Owl, titled, “Behind the Mandates: Untold Stories of Local Businesses.”

The short form documentary can be viewed in its entirety at the end of the article.

“We wanted to put something together that would be considered uplifting. We bounced ideas around. Lad recommended going with a COVID theme – to talk to businesses and discover what they were experiencing from the ripple effects of the mandates,” said James Schaub, a Dublin web developer.

“We wanted to give them a voice and show them there are people who care about what they are going through and give [the public] an idea how impactful these mandates had been beyond what others were seeing – the damage to their families, and how difficult it is to weather this thing,” Shaub added.

He and Dilgard were joined in the endeavor by Dean Hayashi, a drone company owner who also works as a grip in the filmmaking and video industries.

The documentary involves four Central Ohio businesses: Mane Republic Salon in Columbus; The Bogey Bar & Grill in Powell; J. Gumbo’s in Delaware; and The Local Pub and Grille in Newark.

“Feedback from the business owners was overwhelmingly positive,” said Schaub.

Dilgard agreed, “All four business owners loved it and that is a great accomplishment, I think.”

The three each took two full days from their primary workloads to do the filming and subsequent months editing. “Dean was the workhorse on editing. Jim went and researched all kinds of music and provided b-roll footage,” Dilgard said. “I made recommendations on edits. We settled into a routine – every Saturday meeting at Dean’s.”

When asked what’s next for the crew, Schaub said they’re not interested in fame or fortune with the venture, simply delivering good work.  He said Fire Owl will likely do a follow-up project with the four businesspeople – one is in financial dire straits, while another has been visited three times by the Ohio Investigative Unit, the state team charged with making sure businesses are compliant with State of Ohio COVID restrictions.

“All three of the restaurants are extremely worried about their future; it’s alarming, the amount of governing going on,” Dilgard said. “There are tens of thousands of businesses around the state wrestling with these same issues.”

Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the State of Ohio forcing businesses to follow restrictive government mandates.

Watch Behind the Mandates: Untold Stories of Local Businesses:

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Jack Windsor is the Statehouse Reporter at The Ohio Star. Windsor is also an independent investigative reporter. Follow Jack on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Behind the Mandates” by James Schaub.




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