Daily Court Reporter - News Fewer regulations for small Ohio wineries sought
Fewer regulations for small Ohio wineries sought
KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
A plan to free the owners of the state's smaller wineries from overburdensome regulation made its way to a committee in the Ohio House of Representatives recently.
Proposed by Lancaster Rep. Tim Schaffer, a Republican, the bill presumably would build upon the $1.3 billion the wine business plugs into the state's economy annually.
"House Bill 179 addresses an important issue that is affecting small businesses, like the Fairfield County owner of a small winery, who actually brought this issue to my attention," Schaffer told fellow House members seated on the Health Committee.
The measure would meet that end by making small wineries exempt from retail food establishment licensure requirements under specific circumstances, according to the language of the bill.
Under current law, a retail food establishment is an establishment that stores, processes, prepares, manufactures or otherwise handles food for retail sale, analysis by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission provided.
Retail food establishments include grocery stores and gas stations, which both require a license to operate by a board of health with oversight by the director of state agriculture department.
"Current law creates several exemptions from the requirement to be licensed as a retail food establishment - for example, farm markets under certain conditions," research associate Jeff Grim wrote for the commission.
The exemption proposed in HB 179 can apply only when the following things occur:
The establishment serves commercially prepackaged food in a form that prevents direct human contact prior to and during service;
Sales of the prepackaged food do not exceed more than five per cent of the total gross receipts of the establishment; and
The establishment has been issued an A-2 permit or an A-2f permit and annually produces ten thousand gallons or less of wine.
"This bill will simply allow small wineries that are not preparing and serving significant amounts of food to be exempted from retail food establishment licensure requirements," the lawmaker said.
The measure would require a winery's owner or operator to notify the ag director that business meets the standards for exemption from licensure.
Additionally, the owner or operator must disclose to customers that the establishment is exempt from licensure.
"Small businesses around the state are being burdened with the extra requirements necessary for this license and it is negatively impacting their businesses," Schaffer said. "This is precisely the situation my constituent finds himself in.
"As the owner of a small winery, this person is being burdened with this clear example of over licensure. He is unable to provide prepackaged crackers and cheese for his customers during wine tastings due to not having this specific license."
The lawmaker said overburdensome regulation is forcing the small business out of operation, he concluded.
HB 179, instead, would promote small business success and benefit the state's booming wine economy, in addition to providing relief to small business owners who want to make a living.
The state's wine industry continues to grow dramatically, representing a significant segment of the state's $105 billion food and agriculture industry.
According to the Ohio Grape Industries Committee, Ohio is the sixth largest wine producer in the country and produces and sells 1.2 million gallons of wine.
HB 179 has cosponsor support of fellow House members.
The measure was not scheduled a second hearing at time of publication.
Date Published: May 24, 2019