Ohio to ban gatherings of more than 100 people amid coronavirus concerns

Andy Downing
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signs an order banning large groups of 100 or more, along with Dr. Amy Acton (left), the head of the Ohio Department of Health, during a press conference updating the public on COVID-19 on March 12 at the Ohio Statehouse.

A day after Gov. Mike DeWine said that the state would be placing restrictions on mass gatherings, more specifics emerged, with DeWine temporarily banning gatherings of more than 100 people.

"This will not last forever," said DeWine, who also announced that public schools would be closed for three weeks beginning on Monday. "This is temporary. Everything we're doing is temporary. We will get back to normal in Ohio."

The effect of the ban, which does not apply to grocery stores, forms of transit, weddings, funerals or religious gatherings, will be immediately felt by independent concert promoters, venues, arts organizations and musicians. Cory Hajde, co-founder of booking agency BravoArtist, labeled the restrictions "devastating."

Reached prior to the official announcement, Hajde was in wait and see mode, unsure how a potential mandate might play out.

"As of Monday, we were getting nervous about what could happen, then Tuesday we heard DeWine might ban mass gatherings at a certain level," said Hajde, who also manages bands such as Silent Planet, which has been forced to cancel tour dates in California due to the growing coronavirus concerns nationwide. "We're very concerned about patron health and we want to make sure we're doing the right thing. ... Everything about this pandemic is such a gray area."

In a follow-up call on Thursday afternoon, Hajde said he initially threw his phone upon hearing the announcement, and then immediately started fielding calls from venues such as the Foundry and Mahall's, both in Cleveland, who pushed for weekend concerts to move forward as scheduled.

"They were like, 'Look, we can pretty much do whatever until we get shut down,'" said Hajde, who was still determining how BravoArtist might move forward with any planned shows beyond this weekend. "We're trying to keep some of these venues afloat, we're trying to keep these artists afloat, and we want to make sure fans feel comfortable. If they don't, or they feel they're at risk, they can get their money back instead of feeling forced to go to a show that they paid for. And that feels like the best course of action right now to keep everyone happy. ... It's a weird middle ground between holding these gatherings that could be a risky environment for people or potentially putting people out of work for a few weeks, where they may not be able to afford to live, and venues and small businesses could close. It's such a weird gray area, and it's so hard to make a decision."

Prior to DeWine's announcement, Bobby Miller, founder of Archie Fox Live, who also books concerts for Ace of Cups, said the venue was considering every option from shutting down for a couple of weeks to capping shows at a smaller capacity to allow additional elbow room for patrons who wanted to maintain a safe distance from other attendees. (The venue was still debating its options following this afternoon's announcement and this post will be updated once a final decision has been made.)

"Our thoughts are immediately about our staff and what this could mean for them. Music, the entertainment industry, the gig economy, all of these kinds of people are going to be hit the hardest by this," said Miller, who previously canceled Melted, the two day psych-fest that was set to take place over two days beginning this weekend. Once the fears of an epidemic pass, Miller said Ace of Cups would likely host a series of benefit concerts for staff members hurt by the lost income from any closures.

"I'm just hoping everyone can be understanding of what's happening, and empathetic of other people," Miller said. "Maybe that way we can mitigate some of the pain that people are going to feel."

UPDATE: Ace of Cups released the following statement:

In light of today’s mandate by the Governor to limit public gatherings, Ace of Cups is canceling all events through next Thursday, March 19, 2020. This will give us a little more time to ingest all relevant information and figure out if we can continue to put on shows safely and responsibly. We take the safety and health of our community, our customers, our artists, and our staff very seriously and want to make well-informed decisions.

In the meantime, the bar will still be OPEN during regular business hours – but no concerts. If that should change – as this situation is extremely fluid – we will let you know. On top of the already rigorous cleaning procedures in place, please know we will also be increasing our efforts to clean and sanitize with CDC-approved disinfectants.

We ask that all customers take the necessary precautions. Wash your hands longer and more often. Stay home if you, or anyone you have come in contact with, are experiencing any flu-like symptoms.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and post updates as needed.

We wish everyone the best!