Relief in a Bottle: Support for Ohio Liquor Permit Holders

Gene R. Abercrombie and Graham A. Bluhm

wine bottles on table  To assist restaurants, bars, alcohol manufacturers, and other related businesses during the pandemic, Ohio has proposed a refund of certain liquor permit fees and instituted a liquor buy back program.

Possible Liquor Permit Refunds

   A bill under consideration at the Ohio Senate may provide financial relief for some liquor permit holders. In response to Ohio’s March 15, 2020 Directive’s Order limiting the sale of food and beverages, including liquor, beer, and wine, to carry-out and delivery only, the bill would provide a prorated refund of the permit fee paid by specific liquor permit holders during the period of time that the directive remains in effect. A-1-A (certain beer and liquor manufacturers), A-1c (large-scale beer manufacturers), C class (retail store carry-outs), or D class (restaurants and night clubs) liquor permits are included in the bill. Drafted by Senator Matt Huffman and introduced to the Senate on March 24, 2020, the bill would require that the refund be paid within thirty days of the termination of the Directive’s Order from the State Liquor Regulatory Fund.

Excess Liquor Buyback in Ohio

   While liquor permit holders await the possibility of a permit refund, they can take advantage of another form of economic relief addressing their excess liquor products. Ohio Liquor, a partnership between the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and JobsOhio Beverage System, is offering a liquor buy back program to the owners of bars, restaurants, and nonprofit organizations with temporary liquor permits in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Bar and restaurant owners with unopened, high proof liquor products that have been purchased within the past 30 days may return the products back to the Contract Liquor Agency from which they purchased the product.  Temporary liquor permit (F2) holders that obtained a permit for an event that has since been cancelled may do the same.  The event must have been scheduled to take place between March 12, 2020 and April 6, 2020, but additional dates may eventually be considered.

   When the unopened, high proof liquor products are returned, the Contract Liquor Agency will contact the Liquor Enterprise Service Center (LESC) and obtain immediate approval for the buy back.  Any questions about the program should be directed to the LESC by phone at 877-812-0013 or email at  If you need any assistance with this or any other issue, please contact a business attorney at Eastman & Smith Ltd.

   Anna L. Crisp, a law clerk with Eastman & Smith who is finishing her third year at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, contributed to this article.



At the date of publication the above information was correct.  It is quite possible the information above has changed as COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation. 

The article in this publication has been prepared by Eastman & Smith Ltd. for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney/client relationship.