• Thu. Aug 18th, 2022

Councilman Mann asks city to evaluate COVID safety at The Banks

Visitors gathered at The Banks Friday evening, March 26, 2021, leading into the district’s first weekend as a designated outdoor refreshment area. Photo by WCPO

By: Pat LaFleur

CINCINNATI — A city councilman wants the administration to evaluate whether a new open-container zone at The Banks is complying with “basic COVID precautions” and whether the new rules should be modified until the pandemic is over.

“We all look forward to the day when we can move around mask-free without social distancing,” wrote Councilman and mayoral candidate David Mann in a motion filed Tuesday morning. “That moment is getting close, but we cannot risk causing a setback with a surge of new cases.”

Mann’s motion comes less than a week after the 85-acre designated outdoor refreshment area (DORA) opened at The Banks, stretching from the Heritage Bank Center to Paul Brown Stadium. The DORA allows bar and restaurant patrons to move freely through the local streets with beverages in specially marked cups.

Recent seasonal weather brought big crowds to the DORA for its first weekend, sparking concern among some visitors: While case totals have by and large been diminishing across the region as more Tri-Staters get vaccinated, new cases of the coronavirus continue to emerge.

Tracy Schwegmann, a spokesperson for The Banks, acknowledged the large weekend crowds and said she hopes, as more and more people visit the DORA, they will begin to utilize more of its space and spread out.

“It’s an enormous footprint,” she said. “We certainly want folks, as they come down to the DORA, to be mindful of those health recommendations that are in place to help keep you safe.”

In remarks Monday afternoon, Mayor John Cranley also acknowledged a need to evaluate the situation going forward.

“(O)ur health department…is going to be working with the restaurants here and elsewhere to make sure that we’re cognizant of the physical distancing requirements as we come out of COVID winter,” he said.

Mann’s motion ultimately hopes to evaluate whether any of the DORA’s current rules need to be “modified temporarily.”

“(A)dditional enforcement or education may be appropriate to minimize the risk that the DORA will become a major source of new COVID cases,” Mann’s motion reads.