Ohio poised to become second state to make COVID cocktails to-go measure permanent

During a hearing today before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) submitted testimony in support of HB 669, a bill to permanently allow the sale of cocktails to-go from restaurants and bars in the state, and HB 674, a bill to allow Sunday sales of distilled spirits products on a statewide basis rather than by local option.

The testimonies, submitted by DISCUS Vice President of State Government Relations David Wojnar, underscored the need to support hospitality businesses through cocktails to-go and the trend of states across the country modernizing their marketplace regarding alcohol sales laws.

Cocktails To-Go A Critical Lifeline for Ohio’s Hospitality Businesses

“Thousands of hospitality businesses across Ohio including restaurants, taverns, bars, distilleries, and their retail sales operations and tasting rooms have been closed for several weeks,” Wojnar stated in his testimony on HB 669. “Clearly, this has had a devastating impact on the thousands of people employed by on-premises establishments in Ohio. Cocktails to go has become a much need lifeline for struggling on-premise locations and has now been approved in over 30 states across the country with New Jersey, Illinois, Delaware, Massachusetts and Iowa becoming the most recent states whose legislatures have passed legislation to extend this much-needed business-friendly measure.”

Currently, 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 temporary 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.

Sunday Sales Provide Increased Convenience for Consumers

“HB 674 would simplify Ohio’s law regarding Sunday sales and provide uniformity to retailers by doing away with the current patchwork of allowed hours of sale,” Wojnar stated in his testimony on HB 674. “Expanding Sunday sales also provides today’s consumers with the convenience they want. Families do most of their shopping on the weekend and expanding the sale of spirits, beer and wine on Sunday gives adult consumers more choices and added convenience.”

Today, 43 states permit Sunday sales of distilled spirits. Ohio allowed the sale of spirits on Sundays by local option in June 2004. Before this, Ohio consumers were only allowed to buy beer and wine on Sundays.

Since 2002, 21 states have passed laws permitting Sunday sales including Ohio’s neighboring states of Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia. In 2019 alone, Virginia and West Virginia both enacted legislation to permit alcohol sales or expand Sunday hours of sale on a statewide basis.