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Year in Review: Ohio Liquor Law

The purpose of this post is to summarize the happenings in Ohio’s liquor law and look forward to next year.

As you may know, Hastie Law Offices is celebrating its second full year of providing cost-effective legal representation to Ohio’s liquor permit holders.We have truly enjoyed representing “hospitality” clients under our own banner. The freedom to apply our years of experience in this kind of environment has made 2010 a year to remember.

The post is inspired by the Ohio Tavern News’ yearly summary which ran in this month’s edition. If you are a liquor permit holder in Ohio, you should subscribe to the OTN. It is a one stop resource for breaking news in Ohio’s beverage industry and features great monthly columns from the likes of Dave Raber (legal counsel for the OLBA), Phil Craig (Executive Director of the OLBA) and recurring articles from Ohio Division of Liquor Control personnel.

1. Client News
2010 was a banner year for many Hastie Law Offices clients and friends:

*The Woodland Family re-branded the Thirsty Ear to Woodland’s Tavern and doubled the size of the bar. The venue remains truly one of Central Ohio’s premiere live music destinations. Check it out, you will be blown away. Owner Jimmy Woodland even found time to get married and is expecting his first child. A special congrats to him and Nicole.

*Pastimes Pub and Grill opened in Worthington, taking over the old “Gary’s Place” in the Worthington Square Mall. The extensive renovations are garnering rave reviews. We think Wes and Andy have hit a home run and expect big things for them in 2011.

*The Owners of the Grandview Cafe (a Hastie Law favorite) recently closed a deal to open a new restaurant in Worthington in the old “Cafe Daniella” space. As you can imagine, we expect another classy, well-run establishment from Brett and Bill.

*Our good friends in Youngstown also are making a splash. The John Zidian Co. (makers of such fine products as Gia Russa Pasta) entered into the wine production and importation business. They are importing wine under their own label and are producing and importing wine for world renowned chef, Mario Batali.  They also opened the Culinary Arts Center, Northeast Ohio’s premiere recreational cooking school and banquet facility. Local winery L’uva Bella (defacto Hastie Law HQ in N.E. Ohio) also got into the “celebrity” wine game by partnering with local legend Boom Boom Mancini on his acclaimed labels.

*There are several other clients we would love to congratulate (too many to name) but we wish continued success to all of recently opened clients such as Meister’s Bar (also the Grandview Area Browns Backers official location), Diva Den, Large Bar (OSU campus), Hudson Street Hooligans (first professional sports fan club to own its own bar in the U.S.), and the Patio at the Continent.

2.  Ohio Division of Liquor Control

As is the case in most election years, this was a year of change for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control (“ODLC”).  In February, Terry Poole retired as Superintendent after 38 years with the ODLC. He was replaced by Ernie Davis.  We hope the incoming Governor appoints a Superintendent that will continue the ODLC’s  stellar run of efficiency and customer service.

2010 also saw a marked increase in the hiring of new ODLC inspectors/compliance officers.  The new hires (such as Jim Russell) made a concerted effort to get up to speed quickly and have made a surprisingly seamless transition into the fast paced world of regulating Ohio’s liquor permit holders.  We are always nervous when new faces are introduced but this group has done an exceptional job of applying ODLC rules and directives fairly, evenly, and (most importantly) quickly. The ODLC should be commended for their efforts.

ODLC also worker to bring Ohio’s beverage manufactures in line with the recent FDA ruling banning all caffeine-added alcoholic beverages.  Hastie Law Offices does not support the selective banning of products that can be enjoyed safely in moderation, however the ODLC deserve commendation for its proactive handling of this sensitive issue.

3. Laws, Cases, and other Legal Developments

*Casinos approved by Ohio voters – The outgoing year will be remembered in the hospitality industry as the year when casino’s were finally legalized in Ohio.  2011 will be an important year for setting gambling policy in Ohio and monitoring the effects the incoming casino’s have on Ohio’s existing bars, restaurants, and other entertainment options.  We encourage the Ohio Legislature, and the newly formed Ohio Casino Control Commission to craft laws that are fair and consistent with Ohio’s current regulation of the hospitality industry in general.

*Smoking Ban Cases – 2010 noted several developments in case law surrounding Ohio’s SmokeFree Work Place Laws.  For example, recently the Ohio Supreme Court ruled to reinstate $30,000.00 in penalties against Zeno’s, a notorious “smoke-easy” in Victorian Village.  The Court rejected arguments advanced by the bar claiming the law was improperly enforced against family owned restaurants.  For better or worse, it appears the smoking ban in Ohio is here to stay.

*Pending Legislation – There are several pending laws affecting the hospitality industry in front of the Ohio Legislature.  One bill would allow licensed carriers of CCW permits to “pack heat” in bars and restaurants.  Another would expand the size of the liquor commission from 3 to 5 members.  We will watch these and other developments in the law throughout 2011.

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