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Ohio House passes bill making to-go cocktails permanent

The legislation now heads to the Ohio Senate.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio House passed a bill Wednesday that would make the sale of to-go alcoholic beverages a permanent fixture in the state.

House Bill 669 was approved by lawmakers by a vote of 84-8. It will now head to the Ohio Senate for its consideration.

In April, Gov. Mike DeWine signed into effect an executive order that allowed establishments with liquor licenses to sell and deliver drinks, including ones containing high proof liquor as a way to help ease the burden on restaurants during the COVID-19 shutdown. Among the stipulations to DeWine's order was that no more than two drinks per meal were allowed to be sold. 

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The bill, officially called the Business Expansion and Safety Act, was sponsored by Rep. D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron) and Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Violet Township).

“This pandemic has hit main street businesses and workers especially hard as it is a social work environment. The industry runs on human interaction and customer personalization, which has been severely restricted for two months and counting,” said Swearingen in a statement. “I am talking about the tourist industry, which has a large presence in my district and many other districts along Lake Erie.”

“This legislation gives our dining industry the opportunity to rise to the occasion,” added LaRe. “The creative approaches outlined in the bill allow for more Ohioans to frequent our bars and restaurants while safely abiding by social distancing requirements. It is my hope that House Bill 669 will not only allow businesses across the state to re-coup lost profit, but to also maximize their revenue generation.”

According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, who submitted testimony in support of H.B. 669, 33 states plus the District of Columbia are allowing restaurants and/or bars to sell cocktails to-go, bottled spirits to-go or both. 

Other states, including Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Iowa and the District of Columbia, are also considering making these policies permanent. 

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