An Ohio legislator has taken up the fight for small businesses that are attempting to reopen under an administration that has come to be more punitive than supportive.
Bars and restaurants were permitted to open for outdoor dining late last week. Some of these establishments came under fire from Gov. Mike DeWine after alleged complaints of crowds and chaos. Indoor dining was reopened Thursday.
Rep. Jon Cross has become an ambassador of sorts, helping small business owners who are seeking clarity regarding regulations set forth by the Governor, but who have instead been threatened and bullied.
On Monday, DeWine warned restaurant and bar owners that they could lose liquor licenses or face criminal charges if they don’t comply with social-distancing requirements and other measures.
Cross said that what business owners need is clarity, not threats.
“There’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace,” said Cross. “What we need are ambassadors going to these restaurants and bars, not to come in like a swat team, but to say, ‘How can we help you?’
“When the Governor comes out and uses the words ‘marshal’ and ‘surge’ and ‘criminal prosecution’ when referencing his restaurant and bar police going after these establishments as they try to carefully and safely reopen is really unjust and uncalled for.”
Cross said that while there is a necessity for safety regulations and consistency, there is a lot of confusion around them and Ohioans do not need to be marshaled and policed.
“I am putting the state of Ohio on notice,” said Rep. Jon Cross. “If you’re going to go bully our small businesses owners, I’m going to be there to defend them and protect them, as they try to reopen while adhering to rules set forth by the Governor.
“We’ve got to be helpful, thoughtful,” said Cross. “Clarity is needed, and a positive and energetic attitude. We don’t want people to be fearful. We want people to open up safely and with confidence.”
DeWine said more workers are being summoned to supplement the 70-member state Investigative Unit that polices liquor laws, to check virus-precaution compliance at bars and restaurants.
Local officials will work with the pandemic patio patrol as well, with the governor not immediately able to place an estimate on the increased numbers that will enforce the state’s regulations.
Violation of a public health order during a pandemic is punishable as a second-degree misdemeanor carrying up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.
Cross said most of the law enforcement personnel he’s spoken with say that they are just as frustrated as everyone else. “Our law enforcement wants to be protecting our public. They don’t have time to go around and deal with the Governor’s administrative codes.”
Cross said that small businesses make Ohio competitive, and to put them under would only harm the state.
What’s more, Cross said, “We don’t need to add to the pain and suffering of these small business owners that are already hurting after a shutdown of 60-plus days.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Cross. “I’m glad I’m in the position I am because now is the time you’ve got to step up and fight and defend.”
Cross has become a folk hero to Ohio’s small business owners and to those who believe in less government control. His commitment and common-sense approach have attracted a following to his Facebook page.
Rep. Cross (R-Kenton) and a Rep. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro) recently introduced the Business Fairness Act, HB 621. In short, the bill would allow small businesses to remain open in times of crisis, just like big box stores, such as Walmart and Costco.
Said Cross, “When bureaucrats and deep state government officials get out of line and try to go around the legislative body, that’s when we have to step up and be tough. We do this by passing thoughtful and carefully crafted legislation.”
Cross said that one of the main goals of the Ohio House is to keep Ohio’s small businesses alive and thriving.
“We are trying to be helpful and to provide positive leadership,” said Cross. “That’s how you get your state turned around.”
Cross plans to be at Indian Lake over Memorial Day weekend, after a tip that local establishments there will be the target of DeWine’s policing unit.
Cross said in a social media post: “I look forward to meeting with Indian Lake Restaurant & Bar owners on Friday. I’m hearing that Governor Mike DeWine’s “restaurant/bar police” will be targeting Indian Lake!
“Thank you for the invite Indian Lake Chamber! I’m proud to represent (parts) of Indian Lake, a real gem for Ohio. AND I’ll continue to fight like hell not to let DeWine’s police squad threaten or bully our small business owners!
“I’m watching your actions Logan County Health District!”
State Representative Jon Cross (center) with small business owners Matt Brown and Brett Wiford of Iron City Sports Bar on their one-year anniversary of opening in October, 2018.