(The Center Square) — An Ohio state representative who led the charge to reverse Gov. Mike DeWine’s order to move last call at bars and restaurants to 10 p.m. could not be happier other lawmakers are joining the fight.
State Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, introduced a bill in early September to stop DeWine’s late July order to stop bars and restaurants from serving alcohol past 10 p.m. On Thursday, Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, and President Pro Tem Bob Peterson, R-Washington Court House, co-sponsored legislation to do the same thing.
For his part, DeWine has said over the past two weeks he is reviewing the order. However, he also announced Tuesday the state passed 5,000 COVID-19 deaths and is averaging nearly 500 more cases a day than it did two weeks ago.
“Ohio’s restaurants and bars have suffered immensely from the restrictions placed on their industry during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Obhof said. “In order to survive, we have seen them step up during this crisis to find innovative ways to safely serve their customers and keep hundreds of thousands of Ohioans employed. These are our friends, our neighbors and leaders in the communities, and Senate Bill 374 will help them keep their jobs and doors open.”
The bill would allow alcohol sales within the time frame that already exists under Ohio law. It also prevents any disciplinary actions resulting from violations of DeWine’s order.
Cutrona’s bill removes alcohol-sales restrictions due to the COVID-19 state of emergency. It also stops the Ohio Liquor Control Commission from restricting hours of operation established before the emergency.
“I want to make sure these small businesses can push through these trying times,” Cutrona said. “The bar and restaurant industry is completely suffering right now. That 10 p.m. ban takes away their prime time of making revenue. If they can follow the guidelines before 10 p.m., then they can do it at 2 a.m.”
DeWine earlier this week indicated the General Assembly may return after the Nov. 3 general election for a lame duck session. Thus far, there has been no call, nor agenda publicly announced for the possible session.
For his part, Cutrona has spoken with his House colleagues, as well as DeWine in an effort to end the ban.
“I’ve been reaching out to every possible person to lift the ban,” Cutrona said. “I want to take the path of least resistance and the quickest path possible to let the economy open up. I’m eager and doing everything I can on my side, and I’m really excited President Obhof has his coming through,” Cutrona said. “Hopefully it will come up next session, whether that’s tomorrow or lame duck after the election. I’m on the team of just getting things done for Ohio.”
An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.