News & Politics

Ohioans Are Going to Have a Hard Time Buying Their Favorite Vodka in 2018

(Getty Images)

Ohio’s Orwellian named Division of Liquor Control is forcing many Ohioans who want to enjoy their favorite-flavored vodka to spend their money in neighboring states thanks to its decision to place new limits on liquor sales.

Navigating the many and varied alcohol distribution laws around the country requires a law degree. In a nutshell, most states do not allow brewers and distillers to take their product directly to stores that are willing to sell their alcoholic beverages. Free market? What free market? Ohio is no exception.

Because it’s a “control state,” Ohio’s Department of Commerce runs the state’s Division of Liquor Control (imagine that name with other products — “Division of Gardening Control,” “Division of Newspaper Control,” or “Division of Parenting Control”). The way it works is that the Division of Liquor Control decides which brands and types of alcohol are bought and sold in the state. The consumer is merely a cog in the machine where big business and big government meet.

Making the decision for consumers, Ohio’s Division of Liquor Control has decided that over 700 liquor brands will no longer be sold in the state. According to a spokesperson, this decision was made to “to free up shelf space for more popular products as well as new-to-market products.”

Among the more than 700 brands that will disappear from Ohio store shelves are the flavored vodkas of Absolut, Skyy, and Smirnoff. If you’re interested in seeing the complete list of now-banned alcohols in Ohio, click here.

Granted, it’s been several years since I last bartended, but in my quite extensive experience with alcohol, the flavored vodkas of Absolut and Smirnoff, especially, are quite popular.

I’m willing to bet that Ohio’s Division of Liquor Control defines “popular products as well as new-to-market products” by the amount of money “donated” by various alcohol industry lobbyists. By way of illustration, many of South Carolina’s now-overturned beer laws were “encouraged” by lobbyists who were on the payroll of breweries like Budweiser. Using the uninformed votes of well-meaning teetotalers, Budweiser and their large brewery pals were able to squash the competition in South Carolina for a long time.

Alcohol laws are often the product of those who prefer a nanny state colluding with those who prefer a draconian theocracy. Previously having spent eight years of my adult life in South Carolina, I’m quite familiar with the hassle of idiot blue laws. The irony is that well-meaning Christians are often unaware of how they’re doing the bidding of large, multinational breweries and distilleries as they vote for stricter laws and control over the sale of alcohol in their state

One final note: craft distilleries located in Ohio are able to sell to consumers, but the Division of Liquor Control still makes its big brotherly presence known. The small businesses can sell directly to customers who visit their distillery, sell wholesale to bars, and sell their product via consignment in liquor stores willing to give up shelf space. Outside of people making the trek to the probably out-of-the-way distillery locations, Ohio forces its own producers of liquor to sell bottles of their homegrown product via consignment. Let that sink in.

Happy New Year, Ohio!