Ohio Beer Counsel
Information and Commentary on the Issues Facing Ohio's Craft Beer Community, Breweries and Distilleries - Brewed by the Craft Beer Lawyers of Bruns, Connell, Vollmar & Armstrong's Brewery & Distillery Practice Group
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WANTED: Outdoor Refreshment Areas

Photo by Antonis Liokouras/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Antonis Liokouras/iStock / Getty Images

On April 30, 2015, Gov. John Kasich approved a new law which permits municipalities and townships with a population greater than 35,000 to create outdoor refreshment areas (“ORA”).  Much press surrounded this new law as it was introduced in the Ohio House and signed into law less than three months later, an incredibly fast moving bill.  Representatives from the Cincinnati area were pushing for the new law so an ORA could be established in time for the All Star Game on July 14, 2015.  Many were intrigued about the possibility of “Bourbon Street” like atmospheres around the State as open container laws are relaxed within an ORA and passengers on a commercial quadricycle can drink (if certain standards are met).  What’s not to love about this new law!?

Well, almost six months have passed since creation of the new law and we are not aware of any ORA established in Ohio (not even Cincinnati).  Like any law, especially those involving alcohol, the devil is in the details.  For starters, an application for an ORA must include:

  • A map/survey of the proposed ORA in sufficient detail to identify the boundaries, which shall not exceed 320 contiguous acres or one-half mile;
  • A general statement of the nature and types of establishments located within the ORA;

  • A statement that the proposed ORA will encompass no less than 4 “qualified permit holders” (think breweries, wineries, restaurants and/or night clubs);

  • Evidence that uses of land within the ORA are permitted by master zoning plan/map of municipality or township; and

  • Proposed requirements for the purpose of ensuring public health and safety within the ORA.

After public notice of the application and perhaps a public hearing, the municipality or township determines whether to approve the application.  If approved, notice must be given to the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and the Ohio Department of Public Safety of the approval and description of the area provided in the application.

The Division of Liquor Control is then required to issue an ORA designation to each qualified permit holder located within the ORA at no cost.  However, issuance of an ORA designation is not the end of the process as a municipality or township is also required to adopt an ordinance or resolution which establishes requirements “necessary to ensure public health and safety” within the ORA.  Requirements necessary to ensure public health and safety must include all of the following:

  1. The specific boundaries of the area, including street addresses;

  2. The number, spacing, and type of signage designating the area;

  3. The hours of operation for the area;

  4. The number of personnel needed to ensure public safety in the area;

  5. A sanitation plan that will help maintain the appearance and public health of the area;

  6. The number of personnel needed to execute the sanitation plan; and

  7. Beer and liquor may only be served in plastic bottles or other plastic containers in the area.

The responsibility to comply with public health and safety requirements falls on each qualified permit holder within the ORA.  Many of these requirements will result in additional cost and expense to permit holders, municipalities and townships.  These additional “burdens” may cause many to question the benefit of an ORA and may be a major roadblock in the creation of any ORA.

Municipalities and townships are free to create more requirements than above to ensure public health and safety within the ORA.  In fact, the City of Dayton passed a resolution on July 29, 2015 establishing the procedure for the designation of an ORA.

The question remains – will any Ohio city or township approve an ORA in the near future?  It will require much planning, cooperation and patience.  Hopefully it won’t be long before we’re all riding quadricycles!

Contact OBC with questions