that Ohioans can buy three takeout margaritas with their enchiladas to
go, is it OK to sip one on the way home? If not, can a passenger drink
it? And if that’s not allowed, where in the car should the drinks be
placed during the drive home? No one wants to get charged with “open
container,” or any other Ohio alcohol-related offenses for that matter,
so consumers should know the ins and outs of Ohio’s new law allowing
takeout alcoholic drinks.
Cocktails To Go
2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine enacted a cocktails-to-go policy by
executive order. That order permitted customers to purchase two
alcoholic drinks with each takeout meal. The policy was implemented as a
way to provide restaurants and bars with additional income as they
faced financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The executive
order was a temporary emergency rule.
A more permanent Ohio law
authorizing takeout alcoholic drinks was soon passed. Ohio Revised Code
section 4303.185, effective Oct. 12, 2020, states that a qualified
permit holder may sell alcoholic beverages by the individual drink for
off-premises consumption. In other words, patrons can now buy cocktails
to go from their favorite restaurant (if they have a liquor license, of
course). The cocktails are subject to a few rules:
• First, the drinks must be in containers which are closed and sealed.
• Second, a meal must be sold with the drinks.
• Third, there is a limit of three drinks per meal for each customer.
Rules Aren’t Made To Be Broken
rules for cocktails to go are not limited to the restaurants selling
the beverages. Customers who purchase the beverages also are subject to
regulations. For instance, Ohio Revised Code section 4301.64 prohibits
consuming alcohol in a motor vehicle. The law applies to everyone in a
motor vehicle, so not even the passenger can sample the margarita on the
way home. Violating this law can lead to a jail sentence up to 30 days,
a fine up to $250 and five years of probation.
“open container” law found in Ohio Revised Code section 4301.62 states
that no person shall have in their possession an opened container of
beer or intoxicating liquor. A violation is punishable by a fine of up
to $150. The rule has many interesting exceptions for orchestral
performances, racing events and passengers on “commercial quadricycles.”
However, there is no exception for cocktails to go. The takeout drinks
must be in their closed, sealed containers to avoid an open container
So long as the drinks are closed and sealed, they do not
need to be in any particular part of the vehicle on the way home, as a
legal matter. But, as a practical matter, it may be wise to transport
the beverages somewhere other than the cup holder, as that location may
be tempting to drivers and passengers.
Breaking the Rules Could End Badly
a driver gives into that temptation and indulges in a takeout drink on
the way home. If the driver is stopped by a law enforcement officer,
that officer will see the open container of alcohol in the car and smell
the odor of the alcoholic beverage on the driver’s breath. Not only can
the officer charge the driver with violating both Ohio laws described
above, but they will almost certainly begin a DUI investigation (called
“OVI” in Ohio). If the driver performs poorly on field sobriety tests,
like many people do, they may end up being charged with OVI too and will
need the services of a skilled DUI/OVI lawyer.
The new law
permitting cocktails to go is a good policy for assisting the restaurant
industry. It’s also good for customers who want a convenient alcoholic
drink with a takeout dinner. But when taking advantage of the new
policy, just be sure to follow Ohio’s rules for alcohol in vehicles.
About the Author
Dominy is a criminal defense attorney in Columbus, Ohio and the founder
of the Dominy Law Firm, LLC. Shawn has been practicing law since 1997,
and his practice is limited to criminal defense. He represents clients
in Columbus, Ohio and the central Ohio area.
This “Law You Can
Use” column was adapted from the Dominy Law Firm, LLC blog with
permission from the author, and provided by the Ohio State Bar
Association (OSBA). The column offers general information about the law.
Seek an attorney’s advice before applying this information to a legal
problem. For more information on a variety of legal topics, visit the
OSBA’s website at www.ohiobar.org.