COLUMBUS, Ohio (FOX19) - A bill introduced to the Ohio Senate would overturn the state’s alcohol curfew, which currently bans sales past 10 p.m. and consumption past 11 p.m. at Ohio restaurants and bars.
The hours during which alcoholic beverages at permitted businesses can be sold would return to normal, per Ohio Revised Code, which authorizes sales until 2:30 a.m.
Any disciplinary actions taken against Ohio businesses for violating the alcohol curfew on or after July 31, when the curfew went into effect, would cease.
Senate Bill 374 would take effect immediately upon passage. Read it here.
Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) and President Pro Tempore Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House) introduced the bill Thursday, according to a release from Obhof’s office.
The bill has 22 co-sponsors, including four Democrats.
Local co-sponsors include Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati), Louis Blessing (R-Hamilton County) and William Coley (R-Butler County).
“Ohio’s restaurants and bars have suffered immensely from the restrictions placed on their industry during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Obhof said. “In order to survive, we have seen them step up during this crisis and find innovative ways to safely serve their customers and keep hundreds of thousands of Ohioans employed. These are our friends, our neighbors, and leaders in our communities, and Senate Bill 374 will help them keep their jobs and their doors open.”
Obhof’s release cites an Ohio Restaurant Association survey showing more than half of all Ohio restaurants anticipate being forced to close if the current curfew continues.
Ohio’s Liquor Control Commission put the curfew into place. At the time, Gov. Mike DeWine said its rationale was to slow the spread of COVID-19 and avert another wholesale shutdown of Ohio’s bars and restaurants.
The curfew took effect as Ohio was experiencing a midsummer surge in cases. Following the curfew, though not therefore because of it, cases began to fall. They have since surged again.
DeWine said last week he is weighing changes to the curfew, including the possibility of ending it.
“The truth is where we are seeing the most spread is not in businesses, but we are seeing most of this in people letting their guard down. And some of the arguments the restaurant people made is, look, we are responsible when they are in our bar, and we can keep them apart (…) but when they leave at 10 o’clock, we don’t know what they’re doing," he said.
FOX19 NOW has spoken to bar and restaurant owners and managers across the city, including at Jefferson Social, Homemakers, Treehouse Patio and Boomtown Biscuits and Whiskey. Reaction to the curfew was uniformly negative.
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac and Mayor John Cranley have argued the curfew is leading to more violence in the city.
Cranley sought to have Cincinnati exempted from the curfew in early September, but DeWine responded that was not legally feasible.