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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Addressing Patio Concerns, Lago Ruminates on Nature of Art, TownHall GM Says 'Go Back to the Country You Came From'

Posted By on Sun, May 17, 2020 at 8:16 PM

  • One moment, one angle, one second of time

What is time?

To what degree is art a reflection of real life?

What sort of evolutionary herd instincts are buried deep in our DNA and how hard is it to control them?

Does bone broth cure foot-in-mouth disease?

These are but a few of the deeper questions raised after a statement issued by Lago on Sunday evening in response to pictures depicting overcrowding on its patio on the first weekend bars and restaurants in Ohio could reopen under new statewide guidelines and a Facebook comment from TownHall's GM on the same topic.

Lago and TownHall were just two local examples of a problem seen in some minority of establishments across the state that chose to open: Patios that technically had tables spaced the appropriate distance were filled with many, many more patrons than would seem appropriate even under the state's sorta vague guidelines. This stoked what local TV stations would call controversy. And likely some spikes in asymptomatic virus transmission.

It also drew the attention of Gov. DeWine, who was prompted to issue a statement, tell a Columbus NBC affiliate the state could pull liquor licenses from offenders (an unlikely but nuclear option), and field questions on the subject from Jake Tapper on CNN.

Lago, which booked a DJ for a socially distant patio dance party that was somehow expected not to get crowded, responded to the viral photos, inquiries from WKYC and DeWine's comments with a three-pronged statement.

First, "We are so proud to be Clevelanders!"


Second, given the photographic and video evidence that crowds exceeded what many would consider appropriate, Lago said, "There were times during our opening that tested those guidelines and we took immediate measures to thin the 'crowded' areas. We believe we were able to provide a safe environment for all guests. The pictures are one moment, one angle, one second of time."


The Rashomon argument aside, it's commendable that Lago would identify problems and address them independently. (They were also fielding questions via phone from Channels 5 and 3 about what they were doing to thin the crowd.) Like DeWine said earlier today, no one want the cops or state to police how restaurants are operating their patios. (And, despite what you may think, we certainly don't want to establish a patio beat here at Scene. Few things are less attractive than that.)

But that means that restaurants and bars have to police the patios themselves. Something that Lago addressed with plank three of its statement while backtracking on plank two.

"We do not believe it is necessarily our responsibility to 'control' our guests. It proved to be largely unrealistic and exceedingly difficult. We are not an enforcement agency."


There's a difference between being unable to control patrons and being unwilling to. Ensuring that your patrons are keeping distance and limiting capacity of your patio is no different than making sure someone wears a shirt at your club, or faces repercussions for using offensive language with the staff, or doesn't get served because they're visibly drunk. Is it probably harder in this regard? Sure. Is it fun? Probably not, because people are big dumb animals.

That all being said, Lago appears to be dealing with this quickly and in a professional manner.

"We understand and will continue to adjust as necessary," the statement read.

Meanwhile, up in Ohio City, TownHall was also dealing with criticism for a sardine-packed patio and some indoor seating (allowed, they argue, because the garage doors at the front and back of the restaurant were opened, making the whole place a patio).

The restaurant, owned by Bobby George, has not issued any official statements but TownHall GM Ryan Hartzell responded to a Facebook comment by telling the commenter, "If you hate this country so much go back to the one you came from."

click to enlarge FB SCREENGRAB/WKYC
  • FB screengrab/WKYC


In a statement issued late Monday, owner Bobby George claimed he had conducted a "full internal investigation" and would be keeping Hartzell on because to do otherwise would be to bend to public pressure. George did not apologize, though the general appearance of the lengthy statement was supposed to give the impression of being sorry without ever actually saying so, but did blame the situation on a former employee.

At any rate, the city of Cleveland issued a warning citation to TownHall for not keeping proper distance, not conducting temperature checks on employees, and not making employees wear masks.

Correction and update: This post was updated on Sunday, May 17 to clarify that while the original Facebook post was made by a black woman, Ryan Hartzell's comments were made in reply to a Ukrainian man, and then subsequently on Monday, May 18 to include the city of Cleveland's violation letter.

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