Local restaurant, bar customers and owners rally against coronavirus restrictions

About 30 Dayton-area restaurant and bar customers, owners and employees gathered at a rally in Beavercreek late Thursday afternoon to protest Ohio’s COVID-19-related restrictions on dining and drinking destinations.

The group carried signs with slogans that included “Quit Killing Capitalism,” “Open Up Ohio" and “Help Us Save Our Small Businesses: No More Curfew!”

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Mike DeWine and state health officials have reduced seating capacity to enforce social distancing inside bars and restaurants, and they have established a 10 p.m. curfew on serving alcohol. Many local restaurant owners feel those restrictions unfairly punish their establishments.

Some Dayton-area bar and restaurant owners organized Thursday’s rally they called “Peaceful Protest to Support Ohio Bars and Restaurants” to help convince state officials to ease the coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions they say threaten their businesses' survival. The protest was held at the Wings Sports Bar and Grille in the Beaver Valley Shopping Center in Beavercreek.

Doug Finkle, who has owned Julia’s Nite Club on Kingsridge Drive behind the Dayton Mall since 2012, helped organize the protest, which was designed to coincide with Finkle and other bar, restaurant and club owners meeting with State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek and State Sen. Bob Hackett, R-London, inside the sports bar.

Both state legislators spoke with the peaceful protestors in the sports bar’s parking lot before going inside to meet with a smaller group of restaurant owners. Perales and Hackett assured protestors they were all on the same page.

“I’ve been advocating for the lifting of the restrictions,” Perales said. “We want to be safe, and the governor is doing the best that he can,” but the 10 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales is unfair, he said.

One of the rally attendees was Patrick Reed, owner of Angie’s Firehouse Tavern of Dayton, who said the 10 p.m. curfew has been “devastating” for his business.

“If this goes on much longer, we’ll be in the graveyard of dreams, along with a lot of other restaurants,” Reed said.

Finkle said there is “a real lack of evidence” that bars and restaurants were a significant source of the spread of COVID-19 cases, and there also is no evidence that establishing the 10 p.m. curfew discouraged the spread of the virus.

Dance clubs and nightclubs have been particularly hard-hit by the restrictions, since their businesses cater to guests seeking late-night entertainment, and often don’t offer carryout food or drinks as some bars and restaurants do.

On Thursday, a few hours before the rally, DeWine said at his regular press conference in Columbus that he shares the frustration that Ohioans have about not being able to throw away their masks and return to normal, but he encouraged the state’s residents to stay strong in order to reduce the spread of the virus. New cases have ticked up in recent days above the 1,000 new cases per day threshold, DeWine said, and some areas of southwestern Ohio are among those showing a greater incidence of reported COVID-19 cases.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

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