Governor DeWine Gives Liquor Permit Holders More “To-Go” Flexibility + Expands DORAs

Smart Summary

  • New bills signed by Governor DeWine offer flexibility for “to-go” liquor operations for permit holders, expand the areas in which they can sell liquor, and also expand DORAs.
  • Only employees of the establishment are permitted to deliver alcohol to customers- independent contractors (like third-party deliverers) are still prohibited from doing so.
  • Permit holders may now sell alcohol in their parking lots (and on adjacent public or private land, with permission!), even if not authorized to do so previously. 

On October 13, 2020, Governor DeWine signed two bills, House Bill 669 and House Bill 160, into law that made significant changes to Ohio’s liquor laws. These changes make it easier for customers to enjoy the full restaurant experience from the comfort of their homes, while restaurants now have more diversity in their take-out menus and flexibility in serving drinks outside.

Both bills contained an emergency clause, which means the changes became effective upon the governor’s signature. Below is a brief discussion of the most significant changes found in each bill.

House Bill 669: Alcohol To Go + Sales Area Expansion

Take-out Beverages
House Bill 669’s most important change is codifying the emergency rule authorizing permit holders to make and sell take-out alcoholic beverages. There are some limitations to this authorization, however:

  • Restaurants can sell alcohol to go only if they are permitted to sell that alcohol on premises with their liquor license.
  • To-go beverages must be sold in conjunction with a take-out meal.
  • To-go sales are limited to three beverages per meal.
  • To-go beverages must be sealed in a way that makes it apparent if the container has been opened after sealing.
  • To-go beverages must be made individually.
  • Delivery drivers or other restaurant employees must make a good faith effort to ensure the customer is at least 21.

This authorization does not automatically authorize third-party delivery services to deliver take-out beverages. Only employees of permitted entities will be authorized to deliver. Third-party delivery services still require an H permit to deliver alcohol and, even then, only employees of the permit holder are authorized to deliver, not independent contractors.

Automatic Expansion of Sales Area
House Bill 669 also automatically expands the area in which a permit holder is licensed to sell beverages. Permit holders can now sell outside their own property, including in their parking lots, even if they were not authorized to do so before. However the following guidelines must be met:

  • The area where customers are allowed to drink must be clearly marked.
  • The permit holder must give notice to the Division of Liquor Control and the Investigative Unit of the Department of Public Safety no later than 10 days before the expanded sales begin.

These new rules are effective immediately, but they are only valid through December 31, 2022, absent additional legislation or rulemaking.

Expansion of Sale Area that Requires Consent
A permit holder can also now sell outside on public property that is immediately adjacent to the permitted premises, provided the permit holder has obtained written consent from the municipality or township in which it is located. Similarly, a permit holder can now sell outside on private property that is immediately adjacent to the permitted premises, provided the permit holder has obtained written consent from the property owner.

Any area in which customers will be allowed to drink must be clearly marked. Additionally, these rules will also expire as of December 31, 2022, absent additional action.

House Bill 160: Expansion of DORAs

House Bill 160 expands the number of designated outdoor refreshment areas (“DORAs”) that can be created in a municipal corporation or township from two to four if the population is more than 50,000. If the population is between 35,000 and 50,000, the number increases from one to two.

This bill also increases the number of 750ml liquor bottles that a micro-distillery may sell to a customer per day from two to four.

Other changes were made by House Bill 160, but none that are relevant to restaurant and bar operators or that were already discussed above.

Attorneys Robert Dove + Apps Akpofure work closely with bars, restaurants, and other consumer-focused businesses in leveraging and protecting their liquor permits. Erica Bishop is a recent law school graduate currently serving as a law clerk and contributing to the firm’s real estate and liquor practice areas.

All three are key members of the firm’s Ohio Restaurant Association legal team, providing counsel to clients throughout the hospitality industry supply chain.