Permanent and Long-Term to-go Laws Helping Restaurants for Years to Come
Thursday, August 19, 2021
With many Americans still uneasy about dining out and restaurants in need of dependable income, a large majority of states continue to work at bridging this gap. In states like Texas, Florida, Montana, Wisconsin and West Virgina, temporary pandemic ordinances allowing to-go alcohol were made permanent. Washington, Colorado, Illinois, Maine and seven others have extensions in place; while another four states are pending conclusions for either permanence or extension.1
According to Mike Whatley, Vice President for State Affairs and Grassroots Advocacy for the National Restaurant Association, to-go alcohol options increased restaurant sales on average 5-10 percent during the pandemic, and as a result, kept many restaurants alive. Other research indicates alcoholic beverages were among the highest-profiting items on restaurant menus at the height of the pandemic.
Specifications for to-go permanence vary by state. In Missouri, while permanence solidifies a retail liquor license holder’s ability to sell alcohol to-go, regulations must be met: restaurants must place to-go beverages in sealed containers with the restaurant’s name and address, the container can have no openings for straws or sipping holes, and the beverage amount cannot exceed 128oz. As for customers, to-go alcohol purchases must accompany food prepared and bought on location.2
Intended as a temporary ordinance, Maine extended its emergency order to allow restaurants, bars and tasting rooms to offer alcohol to-go until April 15, 2022.3 Maryland has opted to allow carryout and delivery of alcohol until 2023.4 Connecticut stretches the extension range slightly further and allows restaurants to sell to-go drinks accompanied by food until June 2024.5
Restaurants in California and Pennsylvania, among other states, await extension or permanence of to-go alcohol ordinances. Exceeding the state’s original deadline of June 15, California will now allow to-go alcohol until the end of 2021. Bars are permitted to partner with restaurants, food trucks or catering companies to sell cocktails and other alcoholic beverages, while wineries and breweries can host virtual dinners with restaurants that feature wine and beer pairings. The state government signals further extension and even permanence, but only time will tell.6 Pennsylvania has efforts in place to make pandemic practices permanent, but formal votes by state legislators have to wait until they reconvene in September.7
Whether the state(s) where your business operates allows to-go alcohol, or may to some degree in the future, as a restaurant owner or manager, you’re tasked with knowing the laws in your area and doing your part to ensure compliance with lawful sales of alcohol. Simplify your knowledge retrieval and compliance assurance by partnering with The BARS Program. To begin your partnership, or for questions about our alcohol sales compliance training platform preferred by most, contact The BARS Program at email@example.com or call 1-877-540-5500.
1 abcNews, 07/20/2021; States keep alcohol delivery options after pandemic as restaurants rebound
2 News Tribune, 07/08/2021; New state law serves up alcohol-to-go
3 WMTW8, 02/08/2021; Proposal would allow Maine restaurants, bars to continue to serving alcohol to go
4 WJZ13, 05/18/2021; Gov. Hogan signs bill to allow cocktails-to-go, alcohol delivery through June 2023
5 Patch.com, 07/02/2021; CT restaurant 'alcohol to-go' sales continue for 3 more years
6 Eater San Francisco, 06/03/2021; California extends cocktails-to-go through end of year, Newsom announces
7 Philly Voice, 06/29/2021;To-go cocktails off the menu in Pennsylvania – at least through the summer