Bill Seeks To Avoid ‘Keeper Of A Place’ Charges For Hosts


COLUMBUS — Legislation revising the law governing alcohol served at an event at a private residence was introduced in response to a constituent running afoul of the current law, according to the bill’s co-sponsor.

House Bill 574 would allow beer or intoxicating liquor to be furnished or gifted, in addition to sold as in current law, without a liquor permit at a private residence hosting an event for a not-for-profit social purpose, as well as charitable, benevolent or political purposes. Under current law, furnishing or giving away alcohol is in violation of the state’s “keeper of a place” law, which prohibits the selling, furnishing or giving away of beer or intoxicating liquor in violaiton of the law. Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-18, Columbus), one of the bill’s sponsors, told members of the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

“All of us have been to political fundraisers or charitable events at a private residence where alcohol is being served and did not realize the hosts were violating the law,” she testified. “I was certainly unaware of this law until a constituent was charged with several misdemeanors for violating it.”

Boggs stated the constituent had invited musicians who had lost jobs due the pandemic shutdowns to his house to play. While no money was charged to attend, or for beer and food provided, donations were collected to give to the musicians. According to Boggs, an undercover police officer at the party charged the host with violating the “keeper of a place” law, a first-degree misdemeanor.

“The language in this law originated during the Prohibition era and has remained unchanged …,” Boggs testified. “There are wide discrepancies in enforcement of this law and this bill seeks to provide more clarity for events hosted at private residences.”

HB 574 also requires that any beer, wine or mixed beverages at a private event must be purchased from an Ohio liquor permit holder, while all spirituous liquor must be purchased from a state agency. The measure also raises the event attendance limit to 100 people from 50 and clarifies that the fundraising from an event may benefit an individual.

Boggs’ co-sponsor on HB 574 is Rep. Bill Seitz (R-30, Cincinnati).


Social Hosts Targeted By ‘Recklessly’ Bill

COLUMBUS — While both liquor permit holders and private citizens would be subject to a measure reducing the “mental state” standard applied to the law that prohibits a person from allowing an underage person to possess or consume alcohol, proponents of the bill overwhelmingly have their sights set on social hosts, particulary parents of those under age 21.

Current law prohibits a person from “knowingly” allowing an underage person to possess or consume alcohol on a private or public premises. House Bill 418 reduces “knowingly” to “recklessly,” a one-word change that, according to a southwest Ohio prosecutor, will make it easier to prove a person violated the law.

“(I)t is very difficult to prosecute those adults who plead willful ignorance to what may be occurring under their own roof,” stated Zac Corbin, prosecuting attorney for Brown County, in testimony last month for the House Criminal Justice Committee. “The current state of the law effectively permits an adult to avoid prosecution by sticking their head in the sand and pleading ignorance.”

A person acts knowingly when the person is aware that his or her actions “will probably cause a certain result or will probably be of a certain nature,” according to the analysis for HB 418. Acting recklessly entails disregarding “a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the person’s conduct is likely to cause a certain result or is likely to be of a certain nature.”

“Reckless and irresponsible parenting hurts Ohio children,” Corbin stated, “And HB 418 will give prosecutors greater discretion in holding those parents responsible.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s “Facts on Underage Drinking,” 72 percent of youth reported they obtained alcohol for free, with half drinking the alcohol at someone else’s home.

“Not all underage drinking occurs in settings where the owner or occupant of a facility is aware of it, but some of it does,” testified Cheri L. Walker, CEO of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities. “By changing the standard to recklessly, this measure would further deter individuals from allowing underage drinking to occur in public and private places.”

In earlier testimony on HB 418, co-sponsor Rep. Adam Bird (R-66, Cincinnati) stated the measure is designed to prevent underage drinking in Ohio. According to a representative of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, underage drinking is not just a youth problem, it is an adult problem.

“In many cases, especially when there may be a party-type atmosphere that is comprised of underage drinkers, it becomes obvious to any casual observer that the adult host was certainly aware of what was occurring,” testified Doug Scoles, Ohio regional state executive director for MADD. “To deny that there was any knowledge of what was occurring, in many situations, denies common sense. The social host legislation proposed in HB 418 will help crack down on teen parties which are a primary venue for underage drinking for high school and college students.”

Despite parents being called out by proponents in their testimony, HB 418 does not apply to a parent, legal guardian or adult spouse of an underage person who is present and provides the alcohol.


Agency Appeals Bill Re-referred To Panel

COLUMBUS — Despite being reported out of committee last summer, legislation allowing parties to appeal agency orders in a local court has been re-referred for further hearings.

House Bill 286 would modify current law by allowing a party adversely affected by an order of a state agency to appeal to the court of common pleas in either the county where the party’s business is located or where the party lives. Currently, appeals of Ohio Liquor Control Commission orders, as well as orders from the Ohio Casino Control Commission and several other state boards, plus appeals of indoor smoking ban violations, must be made to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in Columbus.

The measure was voted out of the House Civil Justice Committee by a party-line 9-5 vote on June 23. It was re-referred last month to the House Rules and Reference Committee.

HB 286 is sponsored by Rep. Bill Seitz (R-30, Cincinnati). A companion measure, Senate Bill 189, co-sponsored by Sens. George Lang (R-4, West Chester) and Robert McColley (R-1, Napoleon), is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.