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Restaurant professionals weigh in on Gov. Mike DeWine's criteria for ending Ohio's COVID-19 curfew

Local restaurant owners say being able to stay open for just a few extra hours a night would be big for business.

CLEVELAND — For 10 months, downtown Cleveland staple Blue Point Grille has followed the governor's orders from capacity restrictions to curfews. Manager Rachel Kolis says it’s proven to be difficult, but the restaurant's priority is to keep staff and customers safe.

"In hospitality, letting people dine and take their time is very important," she said. "While we've been very respectful of the curfew, it's been difficult for us because we find ourselves having to push people out of the door."

As of November, Ohio has been under a 10 p.m. curfew in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. But with the state's coronavirus trends having decreased in recent weeks, Gov. Mike DeWine has announced new criteria for the state to push back and ultimately remove its curfew.

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At his press briefing on Tuesday, DeWine announced Ohio's curfew will be pushed back to 11 p.m. for two weeks if its number of active hospitalizations remains below 3,500 for seven consecutive days (the number is currently at 2,964). The governor said the Buckeye State could meet this threshold as soon as this coming Thursday.

Subsequently, should Ohio manage to remain below 3,000 hospitalizations for seven straight days, its curfew will then be pushed back to midnight for a two-week period. After that, if the state can keep that number under 2,500 for a week, the curfew would be lifted altogether.

John Barker, President of the Ohio Restaurant Association, says 20% of the state's restaurants were forced to close because of the pandemic. Just last month, 372,000 jobs across the U.S. were lost in the restaurant space, so Barker believes lifting or loosening the curfew is a big deal for communities.

"This is lives," he said. "These are our neighborhoods, these are the people, our friends that work in these restaurants, family members, right? There’s hardly a family that doesn’t have a member that works in the food industry somehow.

"We are happy it's moving in the right direction… We would like to be all the way open, of course, but we want to be part of the solution. We think it’s a step in the right direction."

Even with things getting better, Barker says the restaurant industry continues to struggle.

"When you get to a place that you are going out to eat, be part of the solution," he said. "Wear your mask, follow the rules, make sure that you are careful, sit with your bubble.

"The transmission numbers are not in restaurants – they are in homes and parties and gatherings. We know that from all the contact tracing that we’ve had access to, not only in Ohio, but in other states."

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As for Kolis, she's hoping COVID-19 numbers go down so business at Blue Point Grille can soar. She says just one extra hour of business has the ability to make a big impact.

"Hopefully with the vaccine and numbers going down, we will be able to get more guests in the building and see a little higher level of business and let people relax a little bit more," she said.

DeWine said he could make a curfew announcement as soon as Thursday. Stay with 3News for updates.