State liquor control takes action against bars over curfew violations

ajc.com

Dozens of bars across the state, including four in the Miami Valley, face liquor license suspensions or fines after the state says they violated state laws and public health orders.

The Liquor Control Commission this month took action against 80 liquor permit holders for 95 violations — a big increase over the caseloads in previous months.

The commission found:

  • Taylors Tavern in Springfield sold beer and allowed alcohol consumption past curfew on Sept. 18; its owners face a four day suspension or $400 fine.
  • Grub Pub & Patio in Hamilton sold beer past curfew; its owners face a five day suspension or $1,000 fine.
  • Oddbody’s in Riverside allowed consumption of alcohol after 11 p.m. and allowed marijuana use; its owners are facing a three day suspension or $300 fine.
  • The Draft Bar & Grille in Middletown sold alcohol after curfew; its owners face a three day suspension or $300 fine.

Other bar owners across the state faced fines of up to $6,000 or revocation of their liquor permits.

The commission, which holds its meetings online, hired contract hearing officers in October to handle the surge in cases.

Typically, plainclothes agents with the Ohio Investigative Unit drop in on liquor permitholders to observe any violations of state laws, such as serving to underage drinkers, allowing gambling or illegal drug use. They may issue warnings or citations.

Since the pandemic began in March, OIU’s 65 agents have issued 352 citations. The Liquor Control Commission holds hearings on citations and issues decisions.

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Patrick Canaan, whose family has owned Grub Pub & Patio since 1981, said the curfew is ineffective at curbing the spread of COVID-19 because it results in patrons visiting bars over a shorter time period, rather than spreading out over more hours.

“It’s all a political game to make it look like they’re doing something. They pick on the bars and restaurants, instead of Kroger or Walmart,” Canaan said.

The new statewide curfew will be 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. The curfew in place since mid-November had started at 10 p.m. Additionally, since late July, Ohio bars faced a 10 p.m. last call for alcohol sales.

Many of the permit holders penalized by the Liquor Control Commission were cited for violations of the curfew.