CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A Butler County state representative is co-sponsoring a bill to reverse Ohio’s 10 p.m. ‘last call’ order for alcohol sales.
Representative George Lang (R-52) is also part-owner of Jags Steak and Seafood in West Chester.
House bill 757 would allow Ohio’s bars and restaurants to return to pre-pandemic hours. It was introduced in early September and has not been moved on since.
A similar bill was introduced to the Ohio Senate last week.
Arguing for the House bill, Lang cites an Ohio Restaurant Association survey that found half of the state’s bars and restaurants will close if the ‘last call’ order continues.
“That’s over 100,000 jobs in Ohio,” Lang said.
Ohio’s Liquor Control Commission put the order in place July 31. At the time, Gov. Mike DeWine said its rationale was to slow the spread of COVID-19 and avert another wholesale shutdown of Ohio’s bars and restaurants.
The curfew took effect as Ohio was experiencing a midsummer surge in cases. Following the curfew, though not necessarily because of it, cases began to fall. They have since surged again.
Lang takes issue with the order’s premise as much as its effects.
“Where’s the science that says 10 o’clock is the key time,” he said. “That would be my pushback on that. Show me the science that says 10 o’clock is the key time. That science doesn’t exist.”
Whether Lang is right on that remains unclear. In July, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine acknowledged the Ohio Department of Health’s contact tracing system couldn’t be data-mined to answer questions about where the virus was spreading, leaving the governor to ground his decisions on anecdotal evidence from local health departments.
The situation appears to have changed, with the governor’s recent statements on spreading events gaining in specificity. For example, in Cincinnati last week he was able to rule out workplaces as being a significant source of the virus’s spread while noting “casual” or “informal” social events where people let their guards down are more at fault.
“I understand restaurant owners and bars are hurting. I get it,” he said Wednesday. “The White House recommended that we close all bars and restaurants. When we made the decision to go to 10 o’clock that was my way of compromising.”
Later the governor continued: “I’ve talked to every college president of all the public universities in the state they all think 10 o’clock is better than midnight. They don’t want me to change it.”
DeWine added the majority of Ohio’s mayors are in favor of the order, with Cincinnati’s John Cranley being among the few exceptions.
FOX19 NOW has spoken to bar and restaurant owners and managers across the city. Reaction to the rule is almost uniformly negative.
Some said would-be patrons just end up going to private residences where COVID-19 can spread more easily, something DeWine acknowledged last week.
Moreover, Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac and Cranley have argued the ban is leading to more violence in the city.
Cranley sought to have Cincinnati exempted from the ban in early September, but DeWine responded that was not legally feasible.