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Ohio Considers Letting Lawmakers, Citizens Belly Up to Bar in Statehouse

Ohio lawmakers would be able to knock back an evening beer or cocktail at the Statehouse cafe under a proposal the board that runs the capitol is considering.

Milo’s Catering and Banquet Services, which serves food at the Capitol Cafe in the basement of the Statehouse in Columbus from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, has proposed allowing alcohol to be served after 5 p.m., said Gregg Dodd, a spokesman for the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board. It would be the county’s only statehouse pub, according to the Associated Press.

“This is one of those things where the small business is trying to enhance their operation and enhance their revenue,” Dodd said in a telephone interview from Columbus.

Alcohol has been served at evening events at the Statehouse since 1992, and Milo’s can dispense booze at private gatherings outside business hours, Dodd said. The proposal would expand that, he said. The board would not control the guest list, though no political fundraisers will be permitted, Dodd said.

A committee is reviewing the request and will make a recommendation to the full board in October, Dodd said.

The idea “sends a very negative message to the public,” state Representative Rex Damschroder, a Republican from Fremont, wrote in a July 19 letter to the board.

Look Away, Children

“The Ohio Statehouse serves as a symbol of Ohio’s rich and proud heritage and as a place where the public and school groups visit every day to learn about our state’s history and watch government in action,” Damschroder wrote in the letter provided by Dodd. “There are plenty of bars in downtown Columbus, and the Ohio Statehouse is the last place that should be added to that list.”

The cafe was never intended to be just any dive, Louie Pappas, who owns Milos Catering, told the Associated Press.

“This has been twisted so many ways,” Pappas told the AP. “We’re just trying to think outside the box and create a little more revenue for that space.”

The bar at Mitchell’s Downtown down the street has been a traditional watering hole for Columbus politicos. Jack Goodall, the dining room manager there, said his guests are loyal and the idea of whisky flowing in the halls of state doesn’t faze him.

“We have no problem whatsoever having another bar in town,” Goodall said in a telephone interview.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Niquette in Columbus, Ohio, at mniquette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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