Across Ohio the State’s 113 local health departments have been inundated with complaints about non-essential businesses operating in violation of Governor DeWine’s Stay at Home order. Cuyahoga, Summit and Portage County health departments alone have received hundreds of complaints, which have resulted in forced business closures. In Summit County, 37 non-essential businesses have been forced to close. In Cuyahoga County, the State forced the closure of a non-essential business for the first time just last week.
Complaints are generally resolved through a phone call with the business owner, during which government officials discuss the Stay at Home Order’s essential business criteria and solicit information to determine whether the business meets those criteria. If a business deemed non-essential continues to operate, a warning letter is issued to the business owner. A citation is then issued as a “final step.”
On Tuesday, the Cleveland Police Department issued its first citation, a second-degree misdemeanor, to the owner of a beauty supply store for violation of the Stay at Home order. Certain big box retailers have continued to operate despite demands to close. The Fairlawn Hobby Lobby only agreed to shut its doors after a cease and desist letter was issued by Ohio Attorney General David Yost. A Portage County branch of Gabe’s, a discount retailer, has similarly refused to comply with orders to close because it believes it sale of food and household items qualifies it as an essential business.
Until recently, each local health department was tasked with individually interpreting Governor DeWine’s “non-essential business” order. Now, under the Ohio Department of Health’s authority, the newly formed Dispute Resolution Commission will decide disputes between local health departments and businesses. The three-person commission is comprised of the Ohio Department of Commerce Director Sheryl Maxfield, Development Services Agency Director Lydia Mihalik and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo. Decisions of the Commission will be considered final. The Commission’s first decisions issued late last week clarified that pet groomers and CBD shops are non-essential businesses, while car washing services, if certain social distancing measures are met, are essential.
Flannery | Georgalis will continue to monitor the Commission’s decisions and enforcement actions taken against businesses that continue to operate despite local health department directives.