Ohio Liquor Control Commission holds hearing for Put-in-Bay bar cited for COVID-19 violations

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PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio (WJW) — The Ohio Liquor Control Commission held its first hearing Wednesday for a Northeast Ohio bar cited for violating the state’s coronavirus health orders.

State investigators cited Put-in-Bay Resort after they said crowds of partiers at its Blue Marlin Bar and Grill pool bar posed a risk for the spread of the coronavirus.

During a virtual hearing before the Commission, an attorney with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office presented pictures of groups of people gathered in the pool and outdoor bar that were taken by agents with the Ohio Investigative Unit.

“We were pretty shocked there were this many people at the pool and near the bar,” Agent Stephanie Bowman said.

Agents said when they visited the business on June 27 after receiving a complaint, they found about 180 people, and a DJ was holding a dance contest. They said there was little social distancing.

“The risk is there by the sheer number of people that we see in those photographs,” Ohio Associate Assistant Attorney General Joseph Schmansky said.

Put-in-Bay Resort owner Mark Mathys said the business had limited its capacity and employees tried to enforce social distancing.

“We have taken extraordinary measures to attempt to comply with this, however, you keep moving the goal post,” Mathys told the Commission.

Mathys said the business has since taken more steps to comply, including by hiring additional staff, removing lounge chairs and further limiting capacity.

However, in a tearful plea, he said patrons sometimes refuse to leave and have become combative. In some cases, he said people have spit at and attacked staff members. Mathys said the business has made about 30 calls to Put-in-Bay police to escort patrons out, but the department has said it will not enforce social distancing guidelines.

“This has gotten out of control and unless we can get some help from our police department, I don’t know how we can do a better job,” Mathys said.

Put-in-Bay Resort has just one prior Liquor Control Commission infraction over nearly two decades.

Mathys said he fears the new restrictions — and enforcement — could put him and others out of business.

“You’re not going to have to worry about our permit any longer if this keeps going because, frankly, a lot of us will not be in business next year if this keeps happening,” Mathys said.

Ohio Liquor Control Commission Executive Director Sarah Creedon said the Commission typically determines penalties and issues rulings within two weeks of hearings. Potential penalties are broad and range from a fine to the revocation of a liquor license, she said.

Hearings scheduled for several other Put-in-Bay businesses, including Adventure Bay and Park Hotel, were continued to a later date.

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