What to Know About Ohio Restaurant and Bar Closings
On Sunday, March 15, Governor DeWine issued a statement declaring that, in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, all bars and restaurants in Ohio will be closed at 9pm that evening until further notice.
What does this mean for an Ohio restaurant or bar owner?
First, prepare for being closed indefinitely during a critical time of year in terms of revenue. Between March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day, March is one of the busiest months of the year for the restaurant and bar industry. Being closed during this time will undoubtedly be a business hardship; however, the State of Ohio is implementing some key initiatives to help alleviate this blow.
Liquor Buyback Program:
Ohio is allowing retail liquor permit holders to sell high proof spirits back to the Ohio bailment warehouse. Note that Ohio is a control state, which means the government is the wholesale tier of liquor in the state, and therefore Ohio can swiftly conduct a buyback program such as this. This is critical as many industry members stock up their liquor inventory leading up into the March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day season. This will allow industry members to liquidate their liquor inventory in order to better weather the COVID-19 storm. The state is still working out the details of how this buyback program will be implemented.
The state of Ohio has also announced a plan to extend unemployment benefits to employees of the bar and restaurant industry in Ohio. This is again critical for the industry, as it will allow business owners to keep staff available and avoid having key personnel leave for other employment opportunities. Similar to the buyback program, the details of this initiative are still being worked out and we expect more information in the coming days.
On a related note, employers should also be aware of Labor & Employment law issues specifically relating to the COVID-19 outbreak. When possible, Ohio employers have been encouraged to implement a telecommuting arrangement with employees. These arrangements can invoke various other issues, as discussed by our Labor & Employment team’s recent blog post, “Working in a Socially-Distant World”. Additionally, here is a link to an upcoming webinar specifically addressing these issues.
What to Expect Next:
These are unprecedented and quickly changing times. We do not know what news will come next, and there will undoubtedly be confusion and uncertainty in the near future. We recommend that all bars and restaurants in Ohio take advantage of the resources and benefits the state of Ohio is providing in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. We should note that Ohio will still allow for takeout sales during this time. For more information, here is a link to the Ohio Department of Health Director’s Order communicating the mandatory restaurant and bar closures, as well as detailing recommendations for conducting takeout sales.
If you have any questions regarding what benefits are available to you as a restaurant or bar owner in Ohio, we recommend you contact an attorney with experience in the hospitality industry in Ohio.