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Liquor Law: Happy Hour Rules, etc.

In the most recent edition of Ohio Tavern News, OLBA legal counsel David Raber, wrote a great article that should be required reading for bar owners, especially those with happy-hour specials or other alcohol related promotions.  Here are some of the highlights (and my comments):

1.     Happy-Hour Pricing and/or Daily Specials:

An Ohio liquor permit holder can only have happy-hour specials before 9 p.m. Only during this time can a permit holder charge less than their regularly scheduled pricing.  The normal pricing must be published, in writing, at the permit premises.  A price list can only change every thirty days. You must provide it to law enforcement if they ask to see it.

This basically means you can’t have “daily” specials that last past 9 p.m. We are aware a vast majority of Ohio permit holders disregard this law.  Regardless, it is a violation of Ohio law to have a nightly special that runs past 9 p.m.  Consider yourself warned!

If you would like some creative (and legal) ways to run certain types of specials, please contact Hastie Law Offices.

2.     Drinking Contests (Flip Cup, Quarters, etc)

We have been asked numerous times (especially by our clients on college campuses) about whether they can host certain contests that involve the consumption of alcoholic beverages.  One bar even asked if they could to host a “Beer Olympics” (I don’t think Usain Bolt or the Dream Team were invited).  The short answer is: ABSOLUTLY NOT!!!

Ohio law prohibits any Ohio liquor permit holder from (a) allowing games or contests that involve drinking or (b) using alcoholic beverages as prize for any contest.  I have seen numerous bars cited for these violations.  The State takes binge drinking and giving away alcohol VERY seriously.  Don’t put yourself, your business, or the public at risk by breaking this rule.

Contact a competent Ohio liquor lawyer if you are unsure about the legality of a promotional event at your establishment.

3.     All-you-can-drink (a.k.a. Drink n’ Drown)

Another absolute no-no!  Some Ohio liquor permit holders mistakenly believe they can have an event where there is an “open bar”.  Surprisingly, this is not just at campus locales; we’ve had several inquiries from top-notch establishments, particularly around the Holidays and New Years. A common scenario is where a bar  allows patrons to purchase a ticket to a special event where all alcohol is included.

Under no circumstances should any “unlimited” drink promotion take place at your establishment.  If you want to have an event there are some scenarios where a ticket price can include a specified number of “drink tickets” as part of the price of admission, but you must make sure you follow the minimum pricing law.  NEVER, I repeat NEVER, give away unlimited alcoholic beverages!

If you are thinking of including some alcohol in the price of admisison it’s wise to contact your Ohio liquor lawyer first.  At Hastie Law Offices we should be able to help you craft an event that is fun, profitable, and (most importantly) legal!

4.     Conlcusion

It’s important that all Ohio liquor permit holders understand the law as it pertains sale and consumption of alcohol.  Contact the lawyers at Hastie Law Offices, if your idea involves free drinks, special pricing, or contests… or if you are cited for not following these rules.