Summit County health officials field dozens of complaints as outdoor dining resumes

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AKRON, Ohio (WJW)– Summit County Public Health received nearly 100 complaints about businesses in violation of coronavirus guidelines when outdoor dining reopened over the weekend.

Tonia Burford, the environmental health director, said the number of complaints received typically increases with each order or guideline issued.

“Since the beginning of our COVID response, we’ve fielded over 4,000 complaints at Summit County Public Health,” she said.

Upper Deck in Akron was the subject of more than 15 complaints beginning on May 15, according to health officials, for not following social distancing requirements, face covering requirements and max capacity not being enforced. 

“Our deck holds 600 people capacity and we’ve cut that in half to 300,” said bartender Angela Buck. “We have taken all the necessary steps.”

A COVID-19 Investigation Inspection Report dated Monday, May 18 stated the business is in current violation of one or more public health orders. The report stated the facility is not permitted to use the outdoor kitchen until a final inspection has been conducted by Summit County Public Health, fire department and building department.

Buck stated she believed the complaints lodged against the business were unfair.

“We do share a parking lot with the golf course and on each day we have 50 employees that also work here,” she said about the crowded parking lot.

Many complaints from across the county over the weekend surrounded the reopening of restaurants and bars, specifically issues of overcrowding on patios and employees not wearing masks.

Burford said they try to inspect 24 to 48 hours after a complaint is filed. The goal is to get the operator or business owner in compliance and for them to understand what is required moving forward.

“All of our employees and staff are working very hard to follow the guidelines,” said Bill Lanham, Pick’s at Portage Lakes manager.

Several complaints filed with public health officials regarding Picks at Portage Lakes detailed overcrowding and social distance issues. Lanham said it was a learning experience and they are working to improve.

“We bought some crowd fencing so we can put up. We have deputies that are going to work this weekend to help us control anybody that tries to bypass,” Lanham said.

“If we can keep operating in a safe capacity, we want to stay open and we are glad to be back, it’s very exciting.”

Businesses that do not comply and choose not to correct issues reported or discovered during inspection have a lot to lose, according to Burford.

“If they’re resistant, we also have to ability to revoke a food license, if they have one, or take them to court.”

She stressed for residents to work with business owners when asked to practice social distancing and other established guidelines.

Report a potential COVID-19 health violation here

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