Of all the changes brought about by COVID-19, this one is worth a hearty cheers.
House Bill 669, currently referred to the Ohio Senate’s Agriculture and Natural Resources committee, would make to-go cocktails a permanent fixture of the state’s bars and restaurants. The committee heard testimony from various proponents across the state, including bar owners and industry representatives.
The bill was introduced to the Ohio House May 20 and passed with overwhelming support. In addition to allowing the sale of to-go liquor, it would also allow micro-distilleries to deliver spirits directly to consumers. The Ohio Liquor Control Commission first passed an emergency rule in April allowing establishments to sell liquor in limited quantities for delivery and takeout, but the rule is set to expire Nov. 29.
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Proponents at the state senate’s committee hearing included representatives from the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, Ohio Licensed Beverage Association and Ohio Spirits Association, among others. Luke Pierce, co-owner of Law Bird Bar with his wife Annie Williams Pierce, delivered testimony in support of the bill from the perspective of a struggling entrepreneur.
“Had the to-go cocktails not been legalized, I don’t know what we would have done to be able to kind of pivot and recover, so, you know, I kind of painted that picture for them, let them know about that, made the point of how I think it can be saved,” Pierce said.
Law Bird opened just four months before restrictions related to COVID-19 forced them to shut their doors. The business has since adapted to a carryout model, and Pierce said rules like this are vital to helping restaurants and bars get back on their feet.
“We’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Moving forward, there’s a lot of lost revenue, a lot of opportunities for lost revenue,” he said. “And creating an alternative revenue stream for bars and restaurants moving forward is a huge, huge deal. It will help us kind of repair some of the damage done.”
Pierce said he is optimistic about the bill’s passing. Lawmakers at the meeting were receptive, and he hasn’t seen any significant pushback from legislators or the public. His major concern is if the bill will be put to a vote in time. Normally, 90 days must elapse before a law can go into effect, but an emergency provision in H.B. 669 would enact it immediately. Still, the gears of government turn slowly.
Pierce isn’t alone as a bar owner in this fight. He said he has received an outpouring of support from the community since his testimony.
“After we spoke, we posted on Instagram, and we got a lot of great support from bars and stuff just commenting on our post, sending us messages, and that kind of thing,” Pierce said. “So there’s support all over for it for sure.”
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