Some bars would be allowed to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. on weekends and outdoor drinking areas could be expanded if a bill that cleared the Ohio House becomes law.
House Bill 674, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, calls for making several changes to Ohio’s liquor laws as a means of helping bars and restaurants hit hard by the coronavirus shutdown.
It would eliminate restrictions on Sunday sales, unless the area voted in the past 10 years to prohibit them, and eliminate the Liquor Control Commission’s authority to restrict alcohol sales on holidays. It also gives local voters the option to authorize 24-hour sales of alcohol.
>> RELATED: Ohio House approves ‘cocktails to go’ bill
Establishments could apply for a new permit to allow them to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. for Saturdays and Sundays only.
Local jurisdictions would no longer be required to take action to set up outdoor refreshment areas, according to the bill. Limitations on the number and size of outdoor drinking areas would be eased.
Grabbing a drink before a flight would be different as well. The bill calls for expanding the areas in airports where travelers may consume their adult beverages.
And Ohio’s 339 craft brewers would be allowed to use social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote tastings, festivals and other events. They’d also be given the flexibility to sell growlers made of stainless steel, ceramic or other materials — current law limits growlers to glass only.
Nick Bowman, co-founder and vice president of marketing for Warped Wing Brewing Company in downtown Dayton and of a new facility under construction in Springboro, said he welcomes the move toward easing restrictions and hopes it continues.
“I think our government realizes how badly businesses like ours have been hit,” Bowman said. “We are not back at full strength by any means, especially with the reduced capacity. Any little bit helps.”
Steve Barnhart — founder of Lock 27 Brewing, the craft brewery and restaurant that has locations in Centerville and downtown Dayton — said the Ohio House’s vote to ease restrictions “is in line with the spirit of the craft brewing industry.”
“We don’t want to be part of a broader problem,” Barnhart said. “I believe Ohioans have a healthier relationship with alcohol than they have in the past, and I believe craft breweries helped improve that relationship.”
State representatives this week also passed a bill to continue allowing bars and restaurants to offer “cocktails to go.” They received temporary permission in April to offer alcoholic drinks for carryout and delivery. But that is set to expire in August, unless the state liquor control board extends it or state law changes.
Shanon Morgan, president of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association, said she welcomes the easing of restrictions at a time when restaurants and bars are struggling mightily.
“Anything that is going to help them build sales is helpful,” Morgan said “I think if restaurant owners feel it’s safe for their restaurant or bar to take advantage of these changes once they’re in effect, they should.”
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