COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohioans at the polls this November may be voting on whether to authorize a local establishment’s ability to sell alcohol, a statewide procedure dating back to prohibition.
“Dry” establishments, or those currently not permitted to sell alcoholic beverages, appearing on the ballot Nov. 7 are attempting to receive “wet” status from the voting precinct. This would permit them by law to sell liquor. However, whether a spot is wet or dry is not always all or nothing. Rules can vary regarding the types of alcohol that can be sold, the days alcohol can be sold, and the ability to sell for carry-out or on-premise consumption only.
Aaron Sellers, public information officer at the Franklin County Board of Elections, said the process dates to the repeal of prohibition, when there was a statewide vote in 1933 and Ohioans decided whether alcohol sales would be permitted in their precincts.
“Most of Franklin County voted to be ‘wet,’ but some areas remained ‘dry,'” Sellers said. “Areas have also subsequently been ‘dried up’ or ‘wetted up’ in other elections.”
Now, during a local liquor option election, the people in the precinct vote to determine if, when and how the establishment will be permitted to serve alcohol. Once wet, that location remains that way unless a subsequent election dries it up, Sellers said.
Local liquor option elections can affect a single establishment or an entire precinct. When a single establishment is identified on the ballot, the results of the election will only affect that specific location, as specified by its address.
During this November’s election, there are no precinct-wide questions on the ballot.
To get on the ballot, the petitioner must collect signatures from registered voters in the precinct. The minimum number of signatures is determined by calculating 35% of the votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial general election in that precinct.
The petitioner must also either be a liquor license holder or is currently applying for a license.
Ohio liquor control law divides alcoholic beverages into different classes according to their alcohol content. A local liquor option election will affect only the sale of those classes of beverages that are specifically designated on the petition and ballot.
The results of a local liquor option election affect all of the territory that constituted the precinct at the time the election was held, even if the precinct boundaries change in the future.
Learn more about Ohio’s liquor control process here.