Ohio Uses Its Authority To Regulate Alcohol


A free market in alcoholic beverages has never existed in American history.

A 1970 U.S. Supreme Court decision noted that, in 1660, “the precursor of modern-day liquor legislation was enacted in England, which allowed commissioners to enter, on demand, brewing houses at all times for inspection. Massachusetts passed a similar law in 1692.”

Before Prohibition, there was no orderly marketing of alcoholic beverage distribution. When the 21st Amendment ended Prohibition in 1933, all states were authorized to strictly regulate the transportation, importation and use of alcohol within their borders.

Here are two examples of Ohio’s use of its authority to regulate beverage alcohol:


Buying alcohol online

Ohio prohibits ordering “spirituous liquor” (all intoxicating liquor over 42 proof or containing 21 percent or more alcohol by volume) over the internet. To purchase a bottle of bourbon, for example, you must physically go to an Ohio state agency store. If you are an Ohio resident and are at least 21 years old, Ohio law allows you to bring no more than one liter of spirituous liquor into the state for personal use (not for resale).

As an Ohio resident, you may order beer and wine over the internet, but only from the winery or brewery that produces the product. Properly licensed Ohio retailers may deliver beer and wine to people over the 21 years of age who have placed an order over the internet, by phone or through an app.

If a winery or brewery outside of Ohio desires to ship to Ohio customers online, they can lawfully ship beer or wine to an Ohio consumer when the winery or brewery has applied for and received a class S permit from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control. They must be in compliance with all Ohio laws, including payment of Ohio taxes, quantity limitations and no sales to any person under the age of 21.


Celebrations and tailgates

Ohio prohibits all alcohol permit holders from giving away any alcohol in connection with a licensed business. For example, when the hometown sports team wins the championship, no bar in Ohio could celebrate by saying, “Drinks on the house!” However, if a bar patron says, “A round of drinks on me,” the bar is allowed to charge only that patron for each drink served for that round.

Ohioans should also be careful about alcohol at public tailgating events. Ohio law prohibits alcohol consumption in “places of public accommodation.” For example, a parking lot is considered a “place of public accommodation” because it is open to any member of the public, so tailgate parties taking place in a parking lot cannot include open containers of alcohol. However, if a previously public area such as a parking lot is cordoned off and restricted to invited guests only, it becomes a private place. In that case, possession of an open container would be permissible for the private affair.



Dave Raber is a partner with the Columbus law firm of Lumpe, Raber & Evans and general counsel for the Wholesale Beer & Wine Association of Ohio.