Pandemic relief to stay: cocktails to go

The longer the pandemic lasted, the more people seemed to crave take-out margaritas.

“It started with ‘Let me take two margaritas home with me,’ said Charles Gjerde, co-owner of Papi’s Tacos in Baltimore. But over the months, customers ordered the gallon jug more often.

In April, one of the restaurant’s locations surpassed pre-pandemic sales levels, according to Gjerde, in part because of its customers’ thirst for take-out margaritas. However, as he had planned for the summer, Gjerde assumed he would have to take them off the menu, with the coronavirus era rules expiring allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages.

But on Tuesday, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland signed a bill that allows restaurants to continue selling take-out cocktails for at least two years. Maryland joins nearly 20 states that have approved measures that would keep cocktails on the go, many permanently, even when bars reopen and indoor dining resumes.

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At least 15 other states are considering similar bills. Together, this represents the most dramatic change in state alcohol laws since Prohibition was repealed in 1933, according to Mike Whatley, National Restaurant Association vice president for national and local affairs.

“It’s an incredible change,” he said, noting that in February last year, take-out cocktails were only available in New Orleans and a handful of other neighborhoods. Entertainment.

It is now possible to order one in most states. The seismic transformation of alcohol policy began in New York City.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on March 16, 2020 that restaurants and bars would be temporarily limited to take-out and delivery, but would be allowed to sell take-out alcohol while the mandatory closures are in effect.

Amid an aggressive lobbying effort from the liquor industry, dozens of other governors quickly followed suit.

“We reached out to the governors to let them know that this benefits not only consumers but also struggling restaurants,” said Lisa Hawkins, spokesperson for the Distilled Spirits Council, which represents major alcohol brands such as Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam.

Not everyone embraced the changes. Concerns over sales of take-out cocktails have created unlikely allies in some states, including liquor stores concerned about the loss of business to restaurants, as well as organizations dedicated to combating alcohol consumption. alcohol in minors.

But for the most part, take-out cocktail laws have progressed with little dissent, attracting bipartisan support in states across the country.

In June, Iowa became the first state to make the Temporary Order permanent. Details of extended measurements vary.

Some focus on restaurants, while others include bars and taverns. Some are radically changing the sale of beer and wine to take out, while others deal primarily with how hard liquor is sold. Some require customers to collect their take-out margaritas, but others allow the restaurant or third-party services to deliver them.

Some specify the strength of the cocktails and whether a straw can be provided. Others don’t. None change the laws of open porterage, which means that while the attendant giving you that sparkling daiquiri can make you feel like you’re free to sip and openly walk, you probably aren’t.

Since the start of the pandemic, 90,000 restaurants in the United States have closed permanently or long term, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Many surviving business owners have embraced take-out cocktails quickly and wholeheartedly.

Among them, Shayn Prapaisilp, owner of Chao Baan, an upscale Thai restaurant in Saint-Louis. Shortly after learning pandemic rules would ban indoor dining, he hired a bar manager. One of the resulting creations – the Smoky Hot Thai Boi – was a hit.

Prapaisilp estimated that take-out cocktails accounted for up to 30% of the restaurant’s sales last summer. Like Gjerde in Maryland, he expected the days of take-out cocktails to be about to end, but the Missouri legislature passed a bill on May 14 to make take-out cocktail sales permanent.

“It’s huge for us,” Prapaisilp said. “Spirits and cocktails have the least overhead and the highest profit margins.”

Among those not supporting the recent changes is Chad Newberry, owner of 1881 Spirits in Prescott, Ariz., Who joined other bar owners in a lawsuit last year to push the state stop the ability of restaurants to sell take-out cocktails.

This seemed unfair to him given that bars in the state have to pay over $ 100,000 and go through many hurdles to get liquor licenses, while restaurant licenses are typically closer to $ 3,000.

“I don’t agree because of the price I paid for this bar,” he said. The Arizona legislature has just passed a bill allowing restaurants to sell take-out alcohol, provided they have the appropriate license.

In New York City, where lawmakers are considering a bill to make take-out cocktails permanent, a rivalry has emerged between liquor stores and restaurants. Stefan Kalogridis, president of the New York State Liquor Store Association, said his organization supports the change, but only if restaurants are prohibited from selling bottles of alcohol.

Across the border in Connecticut, where lawmakers are considering a similar bill, the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has raised concerns that alcohol delivery might encourage teens to drink.

“Now that we are entering this new standard, we need new measures in place to track the identity of the person who purchases alcohol,” said Deborah Lake, director of the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, which works on issues of alcohol. addiction in Connecticut. .

Some worry is to be expected, but what’s remarkable, Whatley said, is how little resistance from lawmakers showing up to take-out cocktails. This is true even in states like Georgia, which has traditionally taken a conservative approach to alcohol sales, including a one-time ban on Sundays.

In March, Georgia Representative Kasey Carpenter introduced a bill that would allow restaurants across the state to permanently sell mixed drinks to take out. “In the future, Georgians will eat differently,” he said.

“This bill is intended to give our industry the flexibility to meet these needs.”

State officials asked two questions about the bill, which requires customers to carry the cocktail in the trunk of their car.

“How can you prevent it from spreading?” Asked Rep. Jasmine Clark.

“Great cup holders,” Carpenter said.

“How do I get him home on the motorbike?” Representative Mike Wilensky wondered.

“I would say you better find another vehicle to pick it up,” Carpenter said.

The bill passed the House, 120-48, and on May 5, Governor Brian Kemp signed it.


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About Ray Coulombe

Ray Coulombe

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