Ohio Senate considering bill to loosen alcohol restrictions

(The Center Square) — The state Senate is considering legislation that would, in part, remove limitations on Sunday alcohol sales and also allow local authorities to establish outdoor areas where patrons can drink alcohol outside.

“The intent of this bill is to modernize our liquor laws and be innovative in our approach to help provide relief for those that have been affected by the global pandemic and beyond,” state Rep. Brett Hillyer, R-Uhrichsville, said in prepared testimony.

“This is more than helping business. This is about helping people,” Hillyer added. “Our mom and pop shops that line Main Street, our family members who work at these establishments and our friends and neighbors who frequent these spaces in our communities.”

House Bill 674, which the state House passed by a 75-16 margin, aims to help establishments hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A few months ago, bars and restaurants across Ohio were forced to close their doors and halt service to customers,” Hillyer said. “The lucky ones were able to sustain with carry-out and delivery only options. It is a grim reality that since this route only brings in so much revenue, many will not be able to reopen as a result of the mandated closures.”

The legislation would give amnesty to permit holders and allow them to contest citations. It would set a maximum fine of up to $300 for establishments that violate social distancing guidelines. It also would allow local authorities to create a local Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA).

In testifying before the state House last month, Jean-Philippe Dorval, manager of legislative affairs and administrative services for Columbus-based Prevention Action Alliance (PAA), urged lawmakers to, in part, maintain “local option elections” for Sunday sales. Dorval also asked legislators to keep 2 a.m. as the cutoff time for alcohol sales.

“As with other pieces of alcohol-related legislation, we want to make sure that any expansion in sales or access are accompanied with consumer protections, so our most vulnerable populations are considered and protected,” Dorval said. “If we are going to put in place a long-lasting expansion of alcohol rules and regulations, we would like to ensure that protections are not neglected as it is far more difficult to implement rules once a piece of legislation is passed.”



By Todd DeFeo

The Center Square



Todd DeFeo is a contributor to the Center Square