Testimony Before the Ohio House Commerce and Labor Committee
Lindsey Stroud, State Government Relations Manager
The Heartland Institute
June 12, 2019
Chairman Manning and Committee members:
Thank you for taking the time today to discuss the issue Sunday liquor sales. My name is Lindsey Stroud. I am a state government relations manager at The Heartland Institute, a 34-year-old independent, national, nonprofit organization whose mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Heartland is headquartered in Illinois and focuses on providing national, state, and local elected officials with reliable and timely research and analyses on important policy issues. Heartland would like to submit the following testimony on Ohio’s Prohibition-era law, which allows localities to prevent liquor sales on Sundays.
Ohio is a “control state” with the Ohio Division of Liquor Control “responsible for controlling the manufacture, distribution, licensing, regulation, and merchandising of beer, wine, mixed beverages, and spirituous liquor.” Provisions in state law allow for localities “to hold local option elections to determine the authorized alcohol sales privileges.”
Alcohol sales are booming in Ohio, largely due to deregulations that have taken place in previous years, including “at least 12 bills that furthered relaxed alcohol restrictions statewide since 2012.” The economic benefits have been tremendous. Liquor sales in the state have increased from $697 million in 2008 to $1.2 billion in 2018. Lessening alcohol sales restrictions has also increased craft breweries across the state. In fact, Ohio now has more craft breweries than 46 other states, with an estimated 290 craft breweries operating in Ohio in 2018, a 500 percent increase from the 47 operating in the state in 2012.
The Ohio Department of Commerce currently issues more than 50 different permits for the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of alcohol in various settings including retail locations, restaurants, clubs, and marinas. One of the most notorious licenses is the D-6 permit, which permits for the sale of “intoxication liquor on Sunday between the hours 10:0am or 11:00am and midnight.” This license must be obtained in conjunction with other “D” permits that are classified by the type of retail establishment and only applies for sales of liquor on Sunday.
Ohio allows for localities “to decide on alcohol sales by a public referendum,” with cities in dry counties allowed to vote to “go wet and precincts within a city may decide to go wet in a dry city.” This regulatory process dates back to the repeal of Prohibition with localities determining if their precinct would allow the sale of liquor.
Due to this regulatory burden, new establishments wishing to sell liquor on Sundays in dry precincts must go through a local option election process which “allow[s] registered voters to vote on the question of whether, and to what extent, alcohol sales and consumption will be allowed.”
This has created significant barriers for businesses in Ohio. For example, in November 2018, a local option election appeared on the Lucas County ballot after the state mistakenly gave “Inside the Five,” a brewpub in Sylvania, “a liquor license without realizing the outstanding law for that precinct.” Issue 23 allowed voters to determine whether Inside the Five could “sell alcohol on Sundays.” The Sunday license was ultimately approved by 91 percent of voters. It should be noted that on the 2018 ballot, voters in Lucas County ended up voting on four separate Sunday sales licenses, all of which were approved.
Obtaining a separate license for Sunday sales is frustrating for many small business owners. It is also a redundant licensing procedure. Sundays should not be treated differently than any other day of the week. The ability to sell liquor should also not be subjected to expensive electoral processes.
The legislation in question will help remedy the hassle of Sunday sales by lessening regulations that date back to the early 20th century. Moreover, the proposal would not limit the ability for localities to remain dry, or become dry, but rather provides for Sunday sales to be included in already existing permits, thus eliminating the need for local option elections to permit such sales.
Although there is concern that expanded access to liquor on Sundays will affect public safety, there is scant evidence to warrant such alarms. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that in 2012, 2.2 percent of Ohioan adults reported “driving after drinking too much” in the past 30 days. This is higher than neighboring states including Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia that reported lesser rates at 1.6, 1.9, 1.5, 1.8 and 0.7 percent, respectively. In essence, the prohibition of Sunday sales in some areas does not seem to have had any kind of protective impact.”
Merging existing licensing will help promote small businesses and help deregulate Ohio’s already burdensome liquor regulations. Lawmakers should promote policies that deregulate onerous restrictions and foster the growth of small business.
 National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, “Control State Directory and Info,” 2019, https://www.nabca.org/control-state-directory-and-info.
 National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, “Ohio,” September 2018, https://www.nabca.org/sites/default/files/assets/files/OHOnePager.pdf.
 Max Filby and Holly Shively, “Latest Ohio alcohol laws bolster business,” Dayton Daily News, April 7, 2019, https://www.daytondailynews.com/business/ohio-alcohol-laws-bolster-business/OXsm7YS8FYoiMgyOCWALqI/.
 Rick Armon, “Ohio nearing 300 craft breweries, now 4th in country,” The Columbus Dispatch, April 26, 2019, https://www.dispatch.com/news/20190426/ohio-nearing-300-craft-breweries-now-4th-in-country.
 NABCA Research, “West and Dry Counties: Control and License States,” December 2014, https://www.nabca.org/assets/Docs/Research/December%202014%20WetDry%20Counties.pdf.
 Office of the Ohio Secretary of State, “Guide to Local Liquor Options Elections,” 2017, https://www.sos.state.oh.us/globalassets/publications/election/localops17.pdf.
 Brian Malaska, “Local options on Lucas County ballot will determine Sunday alcohol sales,” NBC 24 News, November 2, 2018, https://nbc24.com/news/local/issue-23-could-mean-no-sunday-alcohol-sales-for-one-sylvania-bar.
 Lucas County, “Election Summary Report,” November 26, 2018, https://co.lucas.oh.us/DocumentCenter/View/71449/Official-11-6-2018.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Percentage of Adults Who Report Driving After Drinking Too Much (in the past 30 days),” March 28, 2016, https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/states-data-tables.html.