FEATURED PHOTO: OHIO SENATOR KRISTINA ROEGNER R-27TH DISTRICT
Yahoo.com, By Anna Staver-COLUMBUS DISPATCH, Posted January 4th 2022
Ohio changed a whole bunch of new rules for brewing, serving and selling alcohol.
Gov. Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 102, a liquor reform bill that changed everything from the legal age for serving alcohol to the number of signatures needed to get a Sunday sales question on the ballot.
Here’s what the new law will do when it goes into effect in 90 days:
Ohioans who are 18 years or older will be legally allowed to serve alcohol when the bill becomes law. The current age for carrying open containers is 19.
“This is something the restaurants asked us to do,” said Sen. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson.
The majority of U.S. states, including New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan, set the age to serve liquor at 18. With staffing shortages plaguing Ohio’s entire service industry, this just made sense, Roegner said.
The COVID-19 pandemic made Designated Outdoor Drinking Areas or DORAs popular this summer and now SB 102 is going to make them bigger.
Instead of three categories, the law divides cities and townships into those above or below 50,000 people.
Municipalities above the line will be able to designate 640 acres for DORAs (double the current limit). And they can spread that acreage across six different locations instead of four.
Cities with populations below 50,000 will be able to use 320 acres as DORAs across three locations, which can be clustered together around a group of bars or restaurants with liquor licenses.
“Communities like them. Businesses love them,” Roegner said. “This seems to be going really well.”
Former Gov. Bob Taft rolled back Ohio’s Prohibition-era ban on Sunday liquor sales in 2004, and communities across the state have voted to legalize sales ever since.
To get on the ballot, stores had to gather valid signatures totaling 35% of the people who voted in the last governor’s race in their precinct. SB 102 lowers the number of signatures to 50.
That’s the number of signatures state lawmakers need to get on the ballot, but this change got a lot of pushback from companies who already hold permits to sell spirits on Sundays.
“I genuinely don’t believe this is the last we’re going to hear about it,” said Bob Young, who runs a company called Why I See that helps businesses get on the ballot. “It’s going to be, ‘Well, let’s just do this, or let’s just get rid of this. It’s only 50. Why have people go through it?'”
The law will also allow these local option elections on primary election days even if there is no primary being held.
SB 102 started out as a bill to make it easier for people who brew alcohol as a hobby to get together and share their knowledge.
The law clarifies that it’s legal for Ohioans to brew their own concoctions, enter them in tasting competitions and share them at local club gatherings.
“These types of events allow homebrewers who aspire to enter the professional brewing arena a chance to have their beers, ciders and meads evaluated by their peers,” Fat Head’s Brewery co-owner Matt Cole said. “It allows them to receive valuable feedback before making decisions to embark on a professional brewery career.”
The law also lets bars, restaurants and distilleries host these clubs providing they notify the Division of Liquor Control in advance, suspend their own license for the sections being used and clearly separate their alcohol from the homebrews.
Homebrewers are not allowed to sell their products at these events but groups can charge entry fees.
It turns out that Ohio law limits the percentage customers can spend on alcohol if they’re paying with a restaurant gift card to 30%.
“That surprised me,” Roegner said.
Her bill simply crossed out the limit in Ohio Revised Code, freeing customers up to spend their gift cards on booze.
Charities that auction off bottles of wine or whiskey are technically breaking the law in Ohio. SB 102 will make it legal though.
The bill allows a political or charitable organization to give away — without a permit — beer, wine or liquor as a fundraising prize under certain conditions.
For example, the organization will have to submit recipes for the alcohol to Ohio’s liquor division and the booze will have to be bought from “from an Ohio-based agency store.”
Anna Staver is a reporter with the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau. It serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.