Hundreds of complaints called in on businesses during pandemic, but no fines issued in Ohio

Hundreds of complaints called in on businesses during pandemic, but no fines issued in Ohio
The Cuyahoga County Board of Health checks complaints on businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 19 Investigates found nearly 1,700 complaints have been called in on local businesses related to the pandemic in Cuyahoga County since mid-March.

Hundreds of complaints called in on businesses during pandemic, but no fines issued in Ohio

But despite hundreds of complaints, we uncovered there have been no penalties.

We found most of the recent complaints reported employees not wearing masks.

Restaurants and bars make up one third of the calls to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health so far in June.

But no fines have been issued.

The "open" signs are everywhere as small businesses and big chain stores try to get back to normal in the middle of the pandemic.

19 Investigates has been tracking complaints made to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health on businesses since mid-March, when the governor issued a stay-at-home order, mandating all non-essential businesses close.

We found people called in 93 complaints so far in June, through public records.

In total, 1,669 complaints have come in to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

Of those, 362 were found to be justified and no fines or penalties have been issued.

The complaints include:

-Employees not wearing masks, including at restaurants, the dentist and chiropractor offices

-No social distancing

-No hand sanitizer, lack of sanitation at gyms

-Restaurants not spacing outdoor table six feet apart

We found the Cuyahoga County Board of Health has not issued any fines to businesses from complaints called in during the pandemic.

Jessica Parkinson is the co-owner of Salt in Lakewood, a fine dining local restaurant.

They’re doing everything they can to keep customers safe.

“We have signs everywhere. There’s signs at the bathrooms, ‘one person at a time.’ There’s signs before you walk in the door,” Parkinson said.

“It’s a lot of dialogue between our staff and the customer,” she said.

The lack of penalties to businesses not following coronavirus pandemics frustrates Parkinson and some other restaurant owners.

“You have people like us that are doing everything right, everything. We purchased mass amounts of hand sanitizer, we have put all the rules in place. Everybody wears a mask, everybody wears a mask. And then you look at places and they’re doing nothing. And they get no—there’s no recourse for it right, they’re not getting in trouble. It’s like they just don’t care,” Parkinson said.

19 Investigates asked the Cuyahoga County Board of Health why they haven’t issued any fines.

A spokesperson said when they respond to a complaint, businesses correct the problem and come into compliance on the spot, so they don’t have cause to issue them a fine, unless there are repeat complaints.

Parkinson said their restaurant is struggling to stay afloat while spending extra money for everyone’s safety.

“And there’s nothing for us to will to keep doing it, because you look at everybody else, and they’re not,” Parkinson said.

We also found complaints are down in June compared to May.

There were 367 complaints in May and so far, 93 complaints in June, with one week left in the month.

If you want to report a complaint, you can call CCBH at 216-201-2000 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

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