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Restaurants, bars prepare for safe New Year's Eve celebrations as pandemic continues

Northwest Ohio restaurateurs are doing the best they can while keeping in line with statewide COVID-19 restrictions like the current 10 p.m. curfew.

TOLEDO, Ohio — While many are planning to ring in the new year at home, restaurants and bars in northwest Ohio will still be hosting celebrations with a 2020 twist. 

Hundreds of people were ready for the ball to drop at midnight at The Heights in downtown Toledo last year, but there's a change of pace for this New Year's Eve in 2020.     

"We're really doing everything we've done in the past, just without the dancing and the congregating," Renaissance Hotel Manager Brian Crooks said.

Customers have to stay seated while being served and far fewer people will be allowed inside. The bar and restaurant is only selling 100 tickets. 

Staff at The Heights and other restaurants like the Blarney Irish Pub are doing the best they can while keeping in line with COVID-19 restrictions, including a 10 p.m. curfew.

"Since we can't toast at midnight, we're going to toast at 7 p.m., which is Ireland's midnight," Blarney Irish Pub owner Ed Beczynski said.

The pub will be offering different drink specials throughout the day and a DJ will be playing to make it feel as normal and festive as possible. 

The coronavirus pandemic is hurting the bar and restaurant industry in Ohio and across the country. 

According to the Ohio Restaurant Association, about one in six restaurants and bars are closed down. Currently, there is about 20% unemployment in the industry, which is three times the current unemployment rate in the state.

Beczynski and Crooks said they have spent tens of thousands of dollars on COVID-19 safety measures for their restaurants including igloos, plexiglass partitions and more. 

Despite a tough year, both men said they're feeling optimistic about 2021.

"I can see the light actually. I feel a little bit better with the vaccine coming up. People are ready for this to be over, especially us business owners," Beczynski said.