Why did Cleveland bars get cited for breaking COVID-19 rules, but not NFL Draft?

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– The FOX 8 I-Team found NFL Draft events in downtown Cleveland did not get cited for violating COVID-19 health orders even with crowds of people shoulder to shoulder.

Yet, a couple of bars in Cleveland’s Warehouse District did.

Over the weekend, the nation saw thousands and thousands of fans inside the NFL Draft Experience and fan events. On Thursday night, state agents cited The Ivy and Dive Bar.

A lawyer, who makes his living representing bars and restaurants, is speaking out. He’s calling out the people who enforce the rules.

“If these rules are important, and they govern food and beverage, they need to govern everywhere,” Ed Hastie said. He said the state should have the same rules enforced the same way for corner bars and national events.

“Cleveland is getting a lot of great publicity and deservedly so. The city’s on full display, but so is the hypocrisy of the enforcement against small businesses in Ohio,” Hastie said.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recently simplified the state rules. Now, they can be summarized by pointing out people need to wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart, and stay in groups of 10 or less.

But, after we watched huge crowds, we investigated. We checked with the Ohio State Highway Patrol about state agents with the Ohio Investigative Unit.

“There was already a law enforcement presence in attendance at the NFL Draft events with the authority to enforce health orders if necessary. The events were not off limits to OIU and they would not need a complaint to take enforcement. OIU has been working with the Cleveland Division of Police on the enforcement of health orders and was available if they were needed in the event venues,” Lt. Craig Cvetan said in an email.

The NFL issued a statement saying, “The NFL worked closely with the CDC and local health officials to ensure the Draft was conducted in accordance with all health and safety guidelines.

Face coverings were required within all areas of the NFL Draft footprint, including in the Vaccinated Fan Zone and Inner Circle, which was comprised of all fully vaccinated fans. The Inner Circle was the area closest to the stage.

In Draft Experience, as planned, fan safety managers were deployed to help ensure face covering compliance and physical distancing from those in separate parties.

The governor’s office said you can’t compare bars to the draft. A spokesman said there are different rules for when people are indoors and outdoors. The draft events took place outdoors. The rules are not as strict outside.

At a news conference about COVID-19 Monday, DeWine addressed the draft concerns briefly.

“Outside is a lot better. And two, wearing a mask really, really matters,” DeWine said.

Hastie said he sees the state’s enforcement as inconsistent.

“This is just rubbing my clients’ and the industry’s noses in it,” he said.

We also sent questions for this story to Cleveland City Hall and the Cleveland Division of Police. As of early Monday evening, we had not received any response.

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