WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio doughnut shop says it had to call police because people gathered for an event with a state lawmaker over the weekend weren’t abiding by pandemic guidelines, but those attending say they were doing so.
People who gathered Saturday for a “coffee chat” with the lawmaker weren’t exercising social distancing, Holtman’s Donut Shop in West Chester Township near Cincinnati wrote in a Facebook post.
The post said staff asked them to spread out and wear masks, which most abided by. A few people began to wander around the shop and mingle without masks, according to the post. Rep. Jennifer Gross, a Republican who represents the Ohio House’s 52nd district and was “conducting a meeting and standing without wearing a mask like we had asked,” according to the post.
Gross told the paper that the group complied with the staff’s instructions but police arrived anyway.
“Unfortunately, even though we were seated, drinking coffee, spread out, and eating donuts that was not enough,” the 21-year military veteran, who has been in office for six weeks, said in a response to the Facebook post by Holtman’s.
Holtman’s said several other people walked up to the shop or inside but left because of the group. Shop co-owner Katie Plazarine told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the staff eventually had to call police after phone calls from people threatening to call the health department. “People generally come in and abide by the rules,” she said.
Ohio’s health department guidelines require restaurant customers and guests to wear face coverings at all times except when dining, and ensure a minimum of 6 feet between parties while waiting and when dining unless barriers and other protective devices are used.
Dave Demerle, 56, of West Chester, said the group of 20 complied when asked by staff to separate into two groups of 10. His wife Cassie, 53, said there were two to three people per table and that each table was 6 feet apart. Whenever anyone got up from their chair, they put a mask on, Dave Demerle said.
Besides being asked to split up, the group was never given a warning by management, he said. When two police officers came in and said they had to leave, he said “everybody was in shock.”
Plazarine said the group was not given approval to hold the event, and Holtman’s post said no one called “to tell us that this was happening.” Gross, however, said, she called six weeks earlier to schedule it. Emilio Vega, 33, said he had spoken to someone at the doughnut shop before the gathering who confirmed the event was still on.
Holtman’s called the situation “unfortunate” but stressed the need to ensure community safety and health. “We understand that some people disagree with this, but at the end of the day in order to run and operate a business right now we have to abide by state, federal, and health department laws,” its post said.