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Cincinnati Left Out Of Longer Bar Hours Law

The Ohio Legislature passed a measure last year that allows extended hours for liquor sales. But only under certain circumstances and only in certain places. And there's a question over which places.

The owner of the Holy Grail says he can usually tell if there's a big convention downtown.

Jim Moehring says depending on the group, conventioneers will often find their way to the Banks for food and drink after all the events are done for the day.

"There's some of them that really keep their folks busy and keep them really around the convention center and have things going until 8 or 9 o'clock at night," Moehring says.

And it was those people Senator Tom Patton of Strongsville had in mind when he wrote the bill.

Right now, last call in Ohio is at 2:30 in the morning. But with a waiver, liquor license holders in a city of 350,000 or more could serve until 4 a.m. during a qualifying major event. That's defined as something that runs for one to 10 days with 3,000 or more people expected.

Specifically, Patton says he was thinking of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this year. The law would give delegates, protesters, and the media a shot at getting a nightcap if the events go late.

We wrote up the bill so that cities of certain size, which would include Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland have the opportunity to stay open instead of 2:30 to 4 a.m..

 "We wrote up the bill so that cities of certain size, which would include Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland have the opportunity to stay open instead of 2:30 to 4 a.m.."

Matt Mullins with the Ohio Department of Commerce, which oversees liquor laws, says the waiver application form does not list Cincinnati.

"The information I have just talks about Columbus and Cleveland. I would have to look at the statute further for more clarification on that," Mullins says.

The confusion may lie in a definition.  The law says a "municipality", which means within city limits.  Census estimates released in May listed 388,000 people living in Cleveland. There were 850,000 in Columbus. And in the municipal boundaries of Cincinnati? 298,000, which is well below the required 350,000.

But Senator Patton says the intention was to count people within the metropolitan area, which covers more than just the city limits of Cincinnati, Columbus or Cleveland.  And that's why establishments adjacent to Senator's Patton's home of Cuyahoga County can also apply to stay open late.

"Although we hit the 350,000 mark, there's clearly not enough hotels and restaurants that service where these people are going to be staying at. There's probably not enough downtown restaurants to manage such a crowd. I'm sure there's not," Patton says.

Jason Kershner is vice president of government affairs for Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and says it's not planning to lobby to get Cincinnati included right now.

"We think that laws like this can certainly enhance the vibrancy of the region. And the Chamber would absolutely consider working with state leaders to amend the legislation should the need arise to include the Greater Cincinnati region."

And as for Jim Moehring at the Holy Grail?  He's unsure.

Moehring says for an event like a Super Bowl, or a World Series, extra hours could be great.  But the late night party crowd, who may have been drinking for a while, can still make it a hassle.

"The businessman in me says, 'it's extra selling hours. It's an extra two hours. Let's do it, let's do it, let's do it!' But there's a big concern there. If it's just too sloppy, actually it doesn't make sense."

Senator Patton says he'd be happy to amend the law to get Cincinnati included, if people in the Queen City want it.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.