Tell me about Ohio liquor laws

by | May 7, 2015 | Dining, Nightlife, Shopping

A recent client asked us: “Every state has such unique liquor laws. What are the quirks with buying alcohol in Ohio?”
In the 24 years I’ve been with Executive Arrangements, a first time question, and a good one. Each of the states has blue laws, which often restrict the day or time you can buy a bottle of wine, and may include the kind of store where you may purchase liquor.  Prior to the move to Ohio, our client had lived in two states with very quirky liquor laws: Kansas (29 counties not even allowed to sell alcohol at all) and Pennsylvania (wine and beer sold in one kind of store, spirits in another, and you are only allowed to buy so much of it per person).
“Blue laws”, or Sunday liquor laws, can be confusing; and if you are new to Ohio, know that our state is not as strict as the Deep South and not as liberal as some cities or states that allow open containers on public streets (New Orleans, Las Vegas) and have drive through beer and wine shops (Texas).
Here are some general guidelines for newcomers:

  • Wine and beer are sold at grocery stores, drug stores and other licensed retailers (no limit on the quantity per individual).
  • Hard liquor (spirits) can only be sold at state liquor stores (although some of these are located within grocery stores, like Giant Eagle).
  • Many restaurants do not carry a Sunday liquor license; so if you enjoy a Bloody Mary or glass of wine with your brunch, make sure they can serve you.
  • Bars and restaurants have to make “last call” at 2:30 a.m. (most close much earlier).
  • It is illegal to have an open container in a public space (put your half-finished bottle of wine in your trunk to drive home from your restaurant dinner).

And, although Ohio is not known for it’s wines, it does have more than 100 wineries, most clustered along the shores of Lake Erie where the lake makes the growing season ideal for Cabernet Franc, Riesling and light Chardonnays. Many local wineries have tours, provide weekend entertainment and small plate menus offerings for a fun weekend excursion within an hour of Cleveland or Akron. Here are some websites for exploring wine & wineries in NE Ohio:
The Ohio Wine Producer’s Association
Vintage Ohio Wine Festival
Heinen’s World Series of Wine
And, Pairings, the wine and culinary center in Geneva, Ohio is helping to bring attention to Ohio wineries with tastings, wine dinners, etc.
And if beer if more your style, NE Ohio has deep roots in the brewery business!  It makes sense once you realize that more residents of Cleveland & Akron identify their ancestry as German, than any other country in the world! When they arrived from Europe 75-150 yrs ago, they built breweries here that reminded them of home! We love our craft beer and production has exploded in the last few years as interest nationwide for unique beers brewed in small batches grows. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Great Lakes Brewing Company opened in 1988 on Market Street; the annual October release of their Christmas Ale is a mini holiday in Cleveland when hundreds line up for a first swig. Owners Pat and Dan Conway are the beloved godfathers of brewers in NE Ohio.
  • Market Garden Brewery/Nano Brew/Bar Cento are all owned by Sam McNulty who is an entrepreneur and lover of food and beer. All clustered on W. 25th Street in Ohio City.
  • Buckeye Beer Engine opened in 2007 in Lakewood and has a number of year round beers and seasonal brews.
  • Hoppin’ Frog Brewery is in Akron and has a tasting room.
  • Thirsty Dog Brewing Company has 11 year round beers and is on Grant Street in Akron.
  • The Brew Kettle is in Strongsville, and their brew on premise facility turned out recipes for groups of visitors that were so popular that they now sell their own brands.
  • Platform Brewhouse on Lorain & W. 41st is in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood.
  • Fat Head’s Brewery has a brewery and restaurant in both North Olmsted and Middleburg Heights.
  • Canton Brewing Company offers many brews based on NE Ohio historical styles and encourages you to bring your own food or order in from the many restaurants surrounding them.
  • And, annual beer events ramp it up a notch with hundreds of beers to sample: Scene Ale Fest in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood and Akron’s Blues & Brews.

Ohio recently passed a law that allows cities with 50,000 in population to designate two entertainment districts (think E. 4th Street, Tremont, Ohio City) to allow adults on foot, on party bicycles and in stationary vehicles to enjoy alcoholic beverages outdoors. Our own mini version of Bourbon Street in N’Awlins! And we do have one of those party bicycles and I think it just got WAY more popular now that you are allowed to enjoy beverages while on the bike.
A Few of Our Favorite Wine & Beverage Shops