Ohio’s Sunday alcohol sales restrictions would vanish under legislators’ proposal

A bipartisan group of Ohio legislators has introduced a bill in the Ohio House of Representatives that would allow all bars, restaurants and liquor stores to treat Sundays just as they would any other day of the week when it comes to alcohol sales.

The "Sunday Alcohol, Liquor, and Especially Spirits (SALES) Act," House Bill 783, would "eliminate provisions of law governing local option elections for such Sunday sales," according to a summary posted on the Ohio General Assembly's web site.

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The proposal was introduced last week by State Rep. John Becker (R-Union Township, Clermont County) and State Rep. Anthony DeVitis, (R-Green, Summit County). One of the four co-sponsors of the bill is State Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain).

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Becker told this news outlet in a phone interview this morning that he introduced the bill in part to help a constituent who is gearing up to open an restaurant in his district east of Cincinnati and who was unaware the new establishment would not be allowed to serve alcohol on Sunday unless it successfully sought voter approval of a local liquor option on a precinct ballot.

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Currently, the passage of a local liquor option for Sunday sales is required for many liquor, beer or wine license-holders to sell and serve alcohol on Sundays. These “local option” ballot issues show up on several precinct ballots throughout the state.

Becker said Ohio Division of Liquor Control officials told him the Sunday restrictions were put in place after Prohibition was repealed.

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Becker said his proposal will not affect the ability of a precinct’s voters to ban alcohol sales altogether and make theirs a “dry precinct,” but would eliminate the hassle and expense of the “local option” elections and of treating Sunday alcohol sales differently from every other day of the week.

It’s not clear what chance the proposed legislation has of passing during this legislative term; the 132nd Ohio General Assembly is wrapping up its work in the coming days. Becker said there is a chance the proposal could be attached to an existing bill.

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“The chances are slim, but it’s always possible,” he said.

The Clermont County legislator said he has every intention of re-introducing the bill next  year if it is not passed in the current legislative session.

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Division of Liquor  Control said this morning, Dec. 11, that division officials are aware of the proposal and “will work to uphold any changes the legislature decides to enact.”

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