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As Ohio Reopens, Undercover Agents Enforce Social Distancing at Bars, Restaurants

You never know who’s keeping tabs on your tab in The Buckeye State.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect:  Americans are growing ever more restless at what appears to be nearly the end of this coronavirus crisis, just as Memorial Day rolls into view.

In many ways, this is the perfect storm of resurgence.  Many of us normally spend Memorial Day around friends and family, hopefully reflecting on those whose lives have been lost during this long journey of liberty.  The weather is improving, and many of us have saved quite a bit of money during this prolonged period of isolation.

But there are still dangers to be had out there, and the coronavirus issue isn’t simply null.  We must still be careful, and we should be heeding the advice of experts still.

In Ohio, authorities are going to great lengths to ensure compliance with their arbitrary ordinances – and it’s upsetting some residents.

As patrons potentially flock to bars and restaurants over the holiday weekend, extra undercover agents will be out to observe, educate and, if necessary, enforce the state’s public health order to thwart the spread of coronavirus.

The agents are part of the Ohio Investigative Unit, which is made up of plainclothes peace officers responsible for enforcing Ohio’s alcohol, tobacco and food stamp fraud laws.

Along with looking for criminal activity, the officers now are tasked with watching for potential violations of the state’s health order for restaurants and bars to safely operate during the coronavirus pandemic.

The consequences for disobeying the guidelines are stiffer than the drinks.

The agents can issue administrative citations, which could lead to a hearing with the Ohio Liquor Control Commission. Possible penalties include fines, suspensions or even revoking a business’ liquor permit.

“We just don’t know the compliance rate out there,” Ohio Investigative Unit Enforcement Commander Eric Wolf said. “We certainly expect that a vast majority of the places we visit will be in compliance and do what they have to do.”

And while the tactics may seem to be a bit of overkill, Wolf admitted that these agents will not be shutting down any bars and restaurants during these “stings”.  Any infractions will be dealt with by the state liquor-licensing authorities instead.

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