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Beer Legislation Brewing in the General Assembly

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Beer Legislation Brewing in the General AssemblyPhoto via Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr.
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The Ohio General Assembly has spent a lot of time thinking about alcohol in the last year, from the creation of open container entertainment districts to the sale of wine at farmers’ markets. Now let’s take a look at three pieces of legislation currently sitting in the Statehouse concerning everybody’s favorite beverage; beer.

We Are the 21 Percent

Rep. Dan Ramos, Democrat of Lorain, introduced House Bill 68 back in February. HB 68 would raise the allotted alcohol by volume for beer manufactured in Ohio from 12 percent to 21 percent, and also aims to prohibit the use of caffeine and other stimulants in beer with more than 12 percent ABV.

The legislation is designed to help Ohio’s burgeoning craft beer market and has the support of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. It’s also not the first time this legislation has appeared before the General Assembly; according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ramos proposed it in 2011 and again in 2013. In an emailed statement, Rep. Ramos said his bill is first and foremost about jobs.

“This is an industry that had double digit increases throughout the Recession,” said Ramos. “We need to do everything we can to support their efforts towards growth or, at the very least, get out of their way.”

The Plain Dealer also pointed out that of the five states bordering Ohio, only West Virginia has a limit on ABV in beer, also at 12 percent.

Sip and Stroll

Columbus’ own Rep. Michael Stinziano has a beer bill making its way through the Statehouse. In February, Stinziano introduced House Bill 37, which would allow a person to possess beer or liquor in a market if the beer or liquor was purchased from a licensed vendor in that market.

HB 37 is specifically tailored to benefit places like North Market in Columbus, which posses multiple carriers instead of a single store. At the moment, North Market finds itself at a disadvantage to stores like Giant Eagle’s Market District, where people are allowed to “sip-and-stroll” with alcoholic beverages purchased on-site.

After proposing the bill in February, Stinziano said, “Our North Market truly showcases the best of the best in entrepreneurship and I’m happy and excited to enhance the North Market experience for shoppers visiting there. We should do everything we can to promote the small business people working here.”

Since then, HB 37 has passed the Ohio House and now sits in the Senate’s agriculture committee.

Closing Time

Finally, the Ohio Senate is considering whether or not to move last call from 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. Language added to the Senate’s operating budget would allow a qualified permit holder to serve beer or liquor between 5:30 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. the following day during a “major event.” According to the Plain Dealer, the new provision to the budget was added by Sen. Tom Patton, a Republican from Strongsville.

The legislation defines a “major event” as one occurring in a city of more than 350,000 people, one that will last between one and ten days and is expected to attract more than 3,000 visitors. With these stipulations, it seems apparent the measure is tailored specifically for the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, unless someone can think up another multi-day, 3,000-person event that could take place either in Columbus or Cleveland.

It’d be a shame to waste this law on a one-off.

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