Strip clubs and churches among businesses reported for COVID-19 violations

The public made nearly 4,000 complaints to the city about unsafe behavior in run-up to spike in cases.

Strip clubs and churches among businesses reported for COVID-19 violations
Data from the Cleveland health department shows that many of us have not been following best practices for preventing the spread of the virus. (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Add the call takers at Cleveland’s COVID-19 non-compliance tip line to the list of people who are not at all surprised that cases of coronavirus are spiking across the state.

Since March, Northeast Ohioans have contacted the city almost 4,000 times to report businesses, public entities, and residences for violating the city’s COVID-19 regulations, according to a 19News analysis of data from the City of Cleveland.

The data show that many of us have been struggling to following best practices for preventing the spread of the virus, which is now surging across the country.

Between March 20 and October 27, employees, customers, passers-by, and concerned neighbors called the city 3,725 times to report unsafe behavior at everything from bingo halls, strip clubs, and daycare centers to high schools, candy stores, and gas stations - even county administrative offices and police stations.

Complaints peaked in the first half of July when the city received more than 100 complaints a day, the data show. By the end of October, the city was receiving less than 20 complaints a day.

The database includes complaints made via the COVID-19 non-compliance tip lines and to the Cleveland Department of Public Health, Cleveland police, and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. The complaints are unverified and anyone can make an anonymous complaint for any reason.

The data captures what life has been like in Northeast Ohio during the pandemic, including the resistance many feel towards the anti-COVID measures taken by state and local authorities.

In July, a bar patron stopped at Woody’s Bar on Triskett on the city’s West Side for a beer.

“There was about a dozen people total - none with masks," the unidentified individual told the city call-taker. "The bartender had one down around her neck. Nobody was social distancing at all, and the bartender said, ‘Take your mask off. Are you here to rob us? We don’t wear those in here.’”

Woody’s was not the only bar or restaurant reported. These establishments were among the types of localities most often reported to the city - along with private residences and retail establishments.

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Organizations that received the most complaints included TownHall restaurant in Ohio City, Jack Cleveland Casino, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, WalMart in Steelyard Commons, and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the data show.

The data also shows a public struggling with the conflicts now arising during what used to be common daily tasks.

A patron of Kamm’s Plaza Barbershop told authorities there was a disagreement when he asked his barber to put on a mask. “They got into an argument. And he left,” the call-taker wrote.

The complaints also highlight the impossible positions many employees find themselves in at work during the pandemic.

An employee at Jack Cleveland said the staff there has had many arguments with the public regarding COVID-19 guidelines.

“At any given time you are there you will find plenty of ‘guests’ who won’t wear their masks, wear them incorrectly, or are constantly taking them down from their faces regardless of how many times you remind them or ask nicely for them to cover their mouth and nose,” reported the employee. “My coworkers and I fear for our health.”

The public is also struggling to balance concerns about the virus with the needs of vulnerable populations.

In October, a concerned relative called the city about an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting held at Holy Name Church on Broadway Avenue. Many of the more than 100 members refuse to wear masks, she reported.

“Her dad is elderly, and she is concerned about his health,” the call-taker noted.

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Too the complaints demonstrate just how weird life has become. One caller called to complain that employees at the Larry Flynt’s Hustler strip club in the Flats for getting too close and not covering up.

“They are not doing any social distancing or requiring masks,” the person reported.

The most common reason for complaining to the city was an improper use or lack of masks. Nearly half of the complains received by the city included allegations related to improper mask usage, according to the data. The second most common allegation was a lack of social distancing.

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The Cleveland City Council has made the use of masks in public spaces mandatory. In July, the mayor amended an order to make mask use in bars, restaurants, and other shared spaces such as ride-share services and shared office spaces, according to a city press release.

On Wednesday, the governor announced that bars and restaurants might be shuttered if the state did not contain the virus. He also announced that the state will also create a task force to monitor mask wearing compliance in retail shops and reissued the state’s mask mandate.

To report a violation at a business call (216) 857-7165. To make a complaint about an individual or a private residence call the Cleveland Police non-emergency line at (216) 621-1234.

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