Browns curfew variance frustrates some downtown Cleveland business owners

Coronavirus

CLEVELAND (WJW)– The Ohio Department of Health’s state curfew variance allowing fans to attend the Browns game Monday night has left some business owners frustrated, since they still have to close by 10 p.m.

As the primetime game continues into the night at FirstEnegy Stadium, nearby bars and restaurants will have to close their doors around halftime.

“A primetime game is everything you wish for as a Browns fan and as a bar owner in the Warehouse District,” said Dive Bar general manager Justin Costanzo. “It’s very, very hypocritical right now if it’s OK for the Browns to have that many people, but it’s not OK for us to have 50 people to watch the rest of the game at the bar.”

DeWine said Thursday that the state’s overnight curfew will continue through at least Jan. 2, but ODH will issue variances for fans to attend several outdoor sporting events, including Monday’s game.

DeWine said the biggest coronavirus risk associated with the games is not from fans attending games with precautions in place, but from fans gathering with others from outside their households.

“Spectators at these events wear masks, they are socially distanced. There’s added safety that they are in a large venue and that they are held outside,” DeWine said.

Costanzo said the state’s curfew has hurt business dramatically at Dive Bar, a late-night hotspot. He said it now has about 50 customers between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. on a weekend night, compared with upwards of 1,000 people before the pandemic.

He said it’s not fair that the Browns get a pass for fans to attend the game while he’ll have to tell patrons to leave mid-game.

“The biggest problem I have in this is, it’s none of the rules, since we’ve followed them to a T. It’s the curfew. It’s not a level playing field,” Costanzo said.

“We don’t even know if we’re going to stay open past pregame, because I don’t want to have that awkward conversation with the group of people sitting at the bar that they have to leave at halftime.”

The Chocolate Bar general manager Shawn Freeman said he hopes fans stop by for dinner or drinks before the game.

“To have to look at anybody in the middle of a game and say, ‘Sorry, you have to go, it’s 10 o’clock,’ it’s going to be frustrating,” Freeman said.

He said the restaurant is grateful the game will be drawing people into the city as downtown businesses continue to struggle from a lack of events they traditionally relied on.

“We’re very happy there are events going on downtown,” he said. “We were surprised the game wasn’t moved like they did in other cities.”

A Browns spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

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