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.
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.