July 6

Cocktails To Go are Here for the Long Haul

Takeout cocktails might be one covid-era trend that becomes permanent post-covid.

When I look back on the pandemic, sipping a margarita from a pouch, I hope I can say the one good trend coming out of 2020 was that States allowed restaurants and bars to sell cocktails to go permanently. Now that we’re at the part of the pandemic where States are lifting emergency orders — cocktails to go are at risk of becoming 86’d. The good news is, many states are considering adopting the legislation — making takeout cocktails one covid-era mandate that could be on the menu for the long haul!

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia created temporary laws allowing restaurants and bars to sell cocktails and bottled spirits, in addition to wine and beer, for off-premises consumption. The orders served as a lifeline for food and drink establishments struggling during stay-at-home orders. These temporary liquor laws were not a fix-all, but they did provide an extra avenue to make additional money, hire back some employees and stay connected with customers. As restaurants are now able to operate at full capacity — they still have a long way to go in recovering from the economic hardship brought on by the pandemic, leaving many in favor of keeping this lifeline afloat.

So far, lawmakers in 15 states have felt the same, passing legislation to make the off-premises sale of cocktails and spirits permanently legal for restaurants and bars. Some of these states include Texas, Oregon, and Florida. “Alcoholic drinks to go became an important source of revenue for restaurants that were trying to survive during the pandemic,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in a press release on the subject. “This law is an important measure to continue the positive economic impacts of a temporary order.”

A dozen other states, including California, Massachusetts, and Washington, have extended laws permitting cocktails to go until the end of 2021 or later. Recognizing the economic benefits these measures will provide restaurants and bars that are still repairing from pandemic-related revenue losses.

Unfortunately, not all states are following suit. New York joined the list of States that are not extending these laws. As Governor Cuomo lifted state emergency orders, the New York State Liquor Authority ended the sale of cocktails to go after June 24th. Thousands of businesses are left overloaded with unused products and concerns about the economic struggles they continue to face coming out of the pandemic. In an interview with New York Times, Sother Teague, beverage director of Amor y Amargo, stated, “The emergency aspect of the pandemic may be ending, but the lingering injury needs time to heal.” Teague continued, “We’ve treaded water for so long and to finally arrive at shore doesn’t automatically mean we are saved.”

Both businesses and consumers benefit from the option to purchase cocktails with their pickup and delivery orders — encouraging more states to reconsider liquor laws that haven’t budged much since prohibition. According to the National Restaurant Association’s yearly report, 7 out of 10 full-service restaurants started selling alcoholic beverages with take-out and delivery orders since the start of the pandemic. As for consumers, 53% of millennials and 39% of gen x-ers said they are more likely to order from a restaurant that offers alcoholic beverages for take-out or delivery.

For most of the U.S., cocktails to go will be coming along as we descend the bridge to the other side of the pandemic. The change can be a blessing for those re-entering the industry, as it creates an additional avenue for alcohol sales and hopefully more opportunities to earn tips. Check-in with how your state handles this legislation because not all states address the liquor laws the same, and some are extending their temporary liquor laws longer than others.


About the author

Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.

About the author

Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.


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