After the Centers for Disease Control recommended canceling gatherings of 50 or more people, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that all bars and restaurants would no longer be allowed to serve food or drinks in their dining rooms effective at 9 p.m. on March 15, 2020. However, restaurants and bars are still able to serve customers by way of carry-out and delivery service, and would-be patrons can still purchase alcohol at the store or at a drive-through.
Governor DeWine recognizes the stress that this will put on restaurants and bars but explained that he has taken this measure in an effort to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus that has brought Ohio and much of the country to a standstill. In his March 15 press conference, Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted emphasized that the measures announced were developed in conjunction with restaurant and bar owners as well as the Ohio Restaurant Association. He also encouraged Ohioans to continue to order food from restaurants to ease the pressure currently bearing down on grocery stores and similar food outlets.
To help offset the financial impact of the scale-back of dine-in restaurant and bar operations, the Lieutenant Governor announced two measures to aid affected businesses and their employees:
1. The Ohio Department of Commerce issued a one-time liquor buyback program to support bars and restaurants that purchased high-proof liquor in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day and other events.
- The buyback program also extends to businesses who were granted F-2 temporary permits for events scheduled between March 12 and April 6 (and may be extended further yet) but can no longer hold such an event.
- Those looking to take advantage of the program will need to return their unopened, high-proof liquor products that were obtained within the last 30 days to the agency where they purchased the product.
- For questions on the liquor buyback program, contact the Liquor Enterprise Service Center (LESC) at 877.812.0013 or by emailing OhioLiquorInfo@Com.Ohio.gov.
2. Unemployment rules have been relaxed for employees who are laid off due to the dine-in ban, including a waiver of the one-week waiting period for eligible Ohioans to receive unemployment benefits.
- If a medical professional, local health authority or employer asks an employee to be isolated or quarantined as a consequence of COVID-19 – even if they are not actually diagnosed with COVID-19 – that employee is eligible to receive unemployment compensation.
- Charges to an employer’s account during Ohio’s emergency declaration period will be mutualized for contributory employers.
- Penalties for late reporting and payments by employers during the emergency declaration period are being waived for the next quarter.
- Employees can file online 24/7 at unemployment.ohio.gov or call between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday at 877.644.6562 (as of March 16, the Lieutenant Governor recommended filing online to avoid then-current telephone wait times of 1 hour and 40 minutes).
- For more detailed information about the COVID-19-specific changes in Ohio’s unemployment program, visit this link.