CHEVIOT, Ohio — Business owners across the state of Ohio are fed up with the government’s restrictions surrounding COVID-19 protections regarding coin-operated machines in bars and restaurants.
What You Need To Know
- A lawsuit was filed in Lake County, Ohio to allow billiards and bar games to be played in bars, restaurants, arcades and other businesses
- 19 businesses and one trade group are pushing for an injunction that would limit the power of Dr. Amy Acton and the Ohio Department of Health
- The lawsuit claims there is not equal protection under the law as Ohio Lottery games are allowed to be played while other games are not
- One business involved in the lawsuit hopes the legal action will motivate the state to update current restrictions to benefit the businesses that are seeking relief
19 businesses and one trade group— ranging from bowling alleys to bars— took legal action against Dr. Amy Acton, the Ohio Department of Health, the Lake County Health District and Attorney General Dave Yost.
The group is seeking an injunction that would allow the use of billiards and bar games across the state.
One of the businesses listed as a plaintiff in the suit is Pioneer Vending, which is owned by Luke Adams. Adams said the Ohio Coin Machine Association and other businesses were working with the state to come up with a plan for people to safely play the games in bars or arcades.
“We laid out this plan to make sure that we were doing our part to help keep people safe,” Adams said. “And when that plan was essentially ignored and we were told we still must remain shut down but the state-owned terminals were still open and operational, that’s what all got this legal action started.”
He said it’s hypocritical for the state to allow Ohio Lottery games to be played in bars and restaurants, but not his coin-operated machines — something they rely heavily upon for revenue.
“Without revenue coming in, we were forced to temporarily shut our business down,” he said. “And yeah, there’s livelihoods at stake here.
Adams said during the pandemic, his family-owned company, which has been in business since since 1909, has had to furlough 53 employees.
He said he hopes by filing the lawsuit, the state will feel compelled to hear them out and make the requested changes.
“Our hopes are is that we get to turn our games on just like the state has kept their games on,” he said.
Sam Keller owns and operates Kellers Cheviot Cafe, which has several closed games within the doors of the bar.
Keller said while he’s very happy he’s been able to reopen his doors after months of staying closed, he thinks the state is working in a way to benefit themselves and not local businesses.
“It’s a godsend we were able to open, and we got something coming in, but it’s a curse that we can’t do the things we normally do,” Keller said. “Can’t do the things that people normally do when they come into a bar and do, which is play pool, play pinball, play darts.”
Keller is also the longtime Mayor of Cheviot, so he has his finger closely on the pulse of the town’s economy, as well as his business.
To get his bar back open safely, he said he’s done everything that’s required of his bar to meet the guidelines set forth by the state. But he’s noticed a big difference in morale of his patrons if all they are allowed to do is sit and drink.
“You know, right now they come in and it’s like sitting in a church pew,” he said. “You can’t do nothing, you gotta remain in your seat.”
He said he’s worried that due to these current protective guidelines, some bars may have to shut down permanently.
“Things like that are just driving our businesses into the ground,” Keller said. “My fear and concern is that unless things change, and change quickly, that a lot of bars just aren’t going to make it.”
Both Adams and Keller hope a resolution comes from the lawsuit sooner rather than later. But Keller wants Ohio to be consistent in their restrictions and guidelines.
“Let’s be fair across the board,” Keller said. “If you can’t play a private vending machine, then you can’t play a state run machine. You can’t have a double-standard, and that’s exactly what we’ve got right now.”
Spectrum News 1 reached out to the Ohio Department of Health for their reaction to the lawsuit, but the organization said “We do not comment on pending litigation.”
We also reached out to Attorney General Dave Yost, but have not yet received a response.
We will continue to follow this lawsuit as more details come about.
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