COLUMBUS, Ohio — A bill that would allow cocktails to-go from bars and restaurants permanently in Ohio has been signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine on Tuesday.
Gov. DeWine's signature officially makes Ohio the second state in the country to make cocktails to-go a permanent measure intended for economic relief in the hospitality business amid the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.
"The Business Expansion Safety Act," introduced by Rep. D.J. Swearingen, will allow bars, restaurants, breweries and wineries to have greater flexibility in their operations and assist them moving forward during and after COVID regulations.
“I am grateful to the governor for signing this critical legislation into law,” said Swearingen in a statement. “This bill is going to help our main street businesses, restaurant industry, and all of the waiters, waitresses, bartenders and Ohioans that rely on that industry to pay their bills."
The Business Expansion and Safety Act will allow for third-party delivery of alcohol for those over the age of 21 along with the purchase of a meal. Customers may order up to three drinks to go with a food order. Drinks are to be sealed before sale and cannot be consumed on the premises. It will also allow for retail permit holders to utilize more outside space on private or public property with approval from the local township or municipality while serving customers.
Among the groups supporting the bill is The Hospitality Recovery Coalition, an initiative led by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) in partnership with the American Distilled Spirits Alliance (ADSA), the Council of State Restaurant Associations (CSRA), the National Restaurant Association and TIPs.
The coalition put out a statement following the bill signing.
"During these unprecedented times, [Governor DeWine has] listened to the plight of Ohio’s restaurants and bars as they struggled to cope with the challenges posed by COVID-19,” the Hospitality Recovery Coalition letter reads. “Cocktails to-go provided a much-needed lifeline for struggling on-premise locations and prevented the permanent closure of many of these businesses. Now that this measure is permanent, hospitality businesses have increased stability despite the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.”
More than 30 states, plus the District of Columbia, are allowing restaurants and/or bars to sell cocktails to-go, bottled spirits to-go or both. Iowa became the first state to make a cocktails to-go measure in response to COVID-19 permanent on June 29. Other states, including Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and the District of Columbia are also considering making their policies permanent.