Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) has signed a bill making the ordering of alcoholic drinks to-go permanent while also giving businesses the right to expand their services.
House Bill 669, which goes into effect immediately, increases the amount of alcohol that may be sold to a customer per meal and allows on-site drinking in outdoor areas around certain businesses.
A couple of bar owners said it all sounds like a good start but fear this will not be enough to save the industry.
On the border of Columbus and Grandview Heights sits Byrne’s Pub. Owner Pat Byrne opened the place 25 years ago.
“We’re thankful that we’re still in business and we hope to have another 25 years after this,” said Byrne.
Like everyone else, Byrne had to shut down around St. Patrick’s Day for months due to the pandemic.
“We got to pay for everything and got none of the revenue,” Byrne joked.
Pat had to lay off two-thirds of his staff and did not do much carryout service.
“The PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) money only went so far and it got to the point where it was either we open up now or we stay closed forever,” explained Byrne.
Byrne’s Pub finally opened back up in July but not to full capacity due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
“We’re teetering right on the end of keeping our head above water, but there are bills that I can’t pay,” said Byrne.
Erie County Rep. D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron) feels for folks like Pat and said that is why he introduced the bill. It allows for bars, restaurants, breweries, and wineries to utilize more outside space with local government approval and enables delivery services to give as many as three alcoholic drinks to anyone older than 21 who orders a meal.
In April, the state passed a temporary rule allowing for two drinks with takeout meals.
“We wanted to be mindful of supporting our bar and restaurant establishments, all who work there throughout the pandemic and going forward. We put several safety precautions in there in terms of making sure that ID’s were verified at the door upon delivery. We do not want any underage consumption,” said Swearingen.
Byrne and fellow bar owner, Steve Tieber, who runs The Dublin Pub in Dayton, said the bill is a good start but they have two other concerns: the weather and only being able to stay open until 10 p.m.
“The 70-degree days are gone. You know, the next six months it’s going to be chilly or cold,” Byrne said. “So then you have to deal with weather and heating inside of a tent that falls under the fire department and there’s a whole lot you cannot do.”
“If the bar and restaurant industry does not get the hours that they want, there will be a mass exodus in not only businesses shutting down, bars and restaurants, but there will be a ton of people running to unemployment,” said Tieber.
Byrne said even if traditional hours only extended on the weekends it could save his business.