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Some Ohio liquor stores don't toast New Year's

With New Year's Eve on a Sunday, state law will prevent some Ohio liquor stores and bars from celebrating a profitable night of parties and high spirits.

The state's permit structure forbids those liquor stores and bars without so-called "D-6" licenses from serving drinks until the New Year arrives at 12:00:01 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 1.

"Ohio law does not make an exception," said Matt Mullins, a spokesman for the state Department of Commerce's Division of Liquor Control, which posted a notice on its Web site after calls and e-mails from Monday-Saturday permit holders.

Out of 1,069 license holders in Lucas County, for example, 697 establishments, or 65 percent, have an additional permit to sell beer, wine, and liquor on Sundays, according to the most recent Ohio audit.

In Wood County, 78 out of 237 permit holders, or 33 percent, can sell on Sundays.

In Michigan, license-holders can begin selling alcohol at noon on Sundays, said Sarah McKart, a manager of Monroe Liquor Plaza.

Liquor permit holders in Ohio and Michigan said they consider New Year's Eve to be their peak sales day.

A representative from the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth, which regulates alcohol sales, was unavailable yesterday for comment on the Wolverine State's policies.

Approval of a precinct-level ballot issue allows a store, bar, or restaurant in Ohio to qualify for a Sunday permit. The Toledo-area had nine Sunday sales ballot issues in last November's election alone.

Many area Meijer stores are among those that sought Sunday permits in the last election. Permit requests were also approved by voters for restaurants in downtown Perrysburg, among others.

Unlike the last occurrence of a Sunday New Year's Eve seven years ago, Joseph's Beverage Center on Talmadge Road in West Toledo is among the outlets that can sell alcohol this time around because of the additional permit.

Tom Shea, manager of Joseph's Beverage Center, expects a repeat of what happened on Christmas Eve, which also fell on a Sunday.

The store could not sell any wine or spirits until 1 p.m., so a large crowd gathered with alcohol in hand in preparation for sales to begin.

"I probably had 75 people with liquor in their hand waiting for the clock to tick to 1:00 p.m.," Mr. Shea said. "We got them out in 18 minutes."

Mr. Shea described the scene as "beautiful." He expects some customers will try to beat a New Year's Eve crunch by purchasing party supplies on Saturday.

All 50 states regulate and restrict the manufacturing, wholesale distribution, and sale of alcohol, using proceeds from sales to pay for government programs.

In Ohio, the Division of Liquor Control is the lone buyer and distributor of spirits, or liquor containing more than 21 percent alcohol by volume. The division sets the prices and product lines for liquor.

Spiritous liquor sales in Ohio reached $638.8 million in fiscal 2006, an 8.72 percent increase over the previous year. This year's sales contributed $138 million to the state's general revenue fund, $23 million more than last year.

The liquor is officially Ohio's property, and the private businesses sell it on the state's behalf at a commission.

Businesses get a 4 percent commission on wholesale transactions and a 6 percent commission on retail transactions.

Contact Joshua Boak at:

jboak@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.

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