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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.

With Cold Weather & COVID Surging, Restaurants Readjust, Even If That Means Temporarily Closing

The owner of the Pontiac and three other Cincinnati restaurants, including Senate, are closed until at least February because of COVID.

A Cincinnati restaurant owner says he won't reopen his five establishments until February because of the COVID surge and the refusal of many to wear masks. He's not alone. Restaurants all over the Tri-State are having to make similar changes.

Dan Wright, owner of Senate, Abigail Street, Pontiac, Holiday Spirits and Forty Thieves posted his decision on Facebook  Wednesday.

"With COVID numbers surging out of control and the lack of any leadership from our state and national governments we have decided that we need to take matters in to our own hands and do what is best for our staff and our businesses," Wright says. "In doing so, Lana and I have made the tough decision to close all of our businesses until February."

3CDC Vice President of Marketing and Communication Joe Rudemiller is sympathetic and recognizes this is going to be a difficult winter for a number of restaurants and retailers.

"The entrepreneurs have to do what they feel comfortable with and what we're going to do is to try to support those businesses who are open and doing it in a safe and socially distanced manner," he says.

Here's just one of many innovative approaches as restaurants look to stay open: Please in Over-the-Rhine is doing a soft re-opening, offering a five course meal for single parties of up to eight in the back of the restaurant with a HEPA air filter. It's not cheap - it costs $1,000, even if yours is just a party of two.

3CDC has started the Foundinitiative to bring business Downtown over the holidays. Activities include decorated storefronts, Christmas trees decorated by Cincinnati's 52 neighborhoods and a scavenger hunt.

The Ohio Restaurant Association is watching the COVID surge closely and seeing restaurants losing 20-40% of sales. President and CEO John Barker says it's a tough decision for owners.

"I think restaurants are going to have to decide if they think they can continue to stay open for indoor dining, meaning if they can get enough customers to justify it, they will." Barker says. "The vast majority of restaurants have to spend an incredible amount of money to get everything separated. They have barriers in between tables and booths."

If they have to temporarily close, Barker says it's unfortunate because many make much of their money during the holidays.

He is lobbying for government help for Ohio's restaurants and urges Congress to pass a stimulus plan before the first of the year.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.