Take-out margaritas and mixed drinks are one step closer to becoming a mainstay thanks to the Ohio House.
On Wednesday, a measure passed 84 to 8 that would make the legal sale of to-go alcoholic drinks, which was allowed temporarily during the coronavirus pandemic, permanent, with no limit on how many a customer can purchase. The bill would apply to take out orders or deliveries.
It also would allow permit holders to expand their sales areas to adjacent properties, including outdoor areas on the property, outdoor public property or private property, with written consent.
“House Bill 669 gives the dining industry the opportunity to rise to the occasion,” said Rep. Jeff LaRe R-Violet Township.
LaRe, a sponsor of the bill, asked the chamber to also approve an emergency clause to help the numerous businesses affected by the pandemic.
Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan D-Youngstown, offered a “virtual toast” to citizens across the state who are struggling because of the pandemic and “will surely have something to celebrate if we pass this bill.”
Since the bill passed with a two-thirds majority, it could take effect immediately after it does the same in the Ohio Senate and gets a signature from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
The Ohio Division of Liquor Control reported that sales were higher in March and April of 2020 compared to the same months in 2019, indicating many Ohioans were consuming alcoholic beverages regardless of dine-in services for bars and restaurants being closed.
The proposal includes an amendment from Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, that would require to-go drinks be provided in a sealed container; stipulating that only adjoining properties can be included in the expanded sales area; mandating that an outline or drawing be provided to liquor enforcement agencies; and placing an age permit for third party delivery companies.
The bill was one of two approved Tuesday afternoon by the House Commerce and Labor Committee. The second is more controversial.
House Bill 674 would allow bars and restaurants to sell liquor on Sundays without a special permit, which is only obtainable with the approval of area voters. The bill also contains a clause that would allow sales until 4 a.m. the next day.
Rep. Juanita Brent D-Cleveland, said during the committee hearing that her constituents want to be allowed to vote on giving permits to businesses for Sunday sales of alcohol and to be a part of the process.
“We always have to allow the voice of the people, period,” she said.
Brent also cited responses to an email of hers from eight of the 10 police chiefs in her district. All eight said they don’t support the bill because of the cost to departments and the additional manpower they would need for hours after these businesses close.
“That is just more strain on communities that are already under strain right now,” Brent said.
“(Republicans) are going to need the other side of the aisle, which is me, to get this passed,” Brent said. “This is not going to be some easy slam dunk for them, and that’s why they have to come beg the Democrats for they’re votes.”
Brent said she thinks a lot of people are going to end up voting no.
But Edwards said, “I don’t think we would send it out of committee and out onto the floor unless we thought it was possible.”