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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Weekend Warnings Bring Some Cincinnati Bars Into Compliance

bars restaurants coronavirus
Jason Whitman
On Friday, May 15, an employee following guidelines to wear a mask prepares a growler for a customer as businesses begin to reopen in Cincinnati in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cincinnati officials said Monday many of the city's restaurants and bars that opened for outdoor dining last weekend followed the state's safety guidelines. A few did not and that brought visits to those establishments Saturday.

There were numerous social media posts Friday night showing some bars with large crowds that were not meeting physical distancing requirements.

Two different teams - each with representatives from the police, health and law departments - visited businesses Saturday in Over-the-Rhine and The Banks.

Environmental Health Director Antonio Young said those visits made a difference.

"To just talk with these particular operators," Young said. "So as the mayor said, just making sure they are aware of what the guidelines are currently and sort of helping them along the way. I must say that everybody fell in line. We were able to gain substantial compliance just through that process."

Mayor John Cranley had issued a statement Saturday afternoon threatening to shut down facilities that did not comply with state orders. He said there were no citations or enforcement actions Saturday.

Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said using the teams should make things easier later this week when bars and restaurants can reopen their inside service.

"It did appear that some of the business owners just needed some questions answered and some guidance," Isaac said. "The formation of this team I think is moving us in the right direction."

Cranley said the city is hosting a webinar Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to assist businesses that want to participate in the city's pilot outdoor dining program. Those interested can register here

"This online training session will cover guidelines, development of a successful site plan, and application and approval process," Cranley said. "And city staff will be able to answer any questions related to how to open safely."

In some locations, the city is closing streets, using on-street parking spaces or sidewalks to allow restaurants and bars to expand their outdoor dining capacity.

Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state will be taking additional enforcement action using the Ohio Investigative Unit, which is part of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.  Those officers will be conducting safety checks and could issue administrative citations that could result in the revocation of liquor licenses or criminal charges.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.