Cocktails-To-Go Should Remain Permanent | Citizens Against Government Waste

Cocktails-To-Go Should Remain Permanent

The WasteWatcher

During the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and shutdowns took a heavy toll on the food and beverage industries.  In most of the country, bars and restaurants were closed to indoor dining or limited to 25 percent capacity or less for significant periods of time beginning in March 2020.   Large events like weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays were prohibited, and tasting rooms and tours for breweries, distilleries, and wineries were closed to the public.

Bars and restaurants were able to retain some of their income by increasing takeout and delivery and using nearby parking lots for drive-in dining.  But few jurisdictions allowed alcohol to be taken out along with food, until some states and local governments eliminated restrictions on to-go orders for alcohol. 

Florida and Texas, which were among the first states to lift restrictions, have permanently allowed the sale of cocktails-to-go.  On May 29, 2021, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) rescinded most of the Commonwealth’s existing mandates and the rest expired with the end of the state of emergency on June 15.  Gov. Baker then signed legislation on June 16, 2021, that will allow the sale of cocktails-to-go to continue until May 1, 2022. 

As of June 15, 2021, Pennsylvania’s restaurants and bars can no longer sell cocktails-to-go, as pre-pandemic regulations went back into effect.  Governor Tom Wolf (D) has urged the Pennsylvania legislature to pass legislation that will make sales of cocktails-to-go permanent. 

Other states have been considering similar measures.  Even as states open up and many restrictions have been lifted, bars and restaurants are still among the slowest businesses to recover from the pandemic

Buckeye Institute Research Fellow Greg Lawson wrote that as of June 2020, the “hospitality and leisure sector had nearly 147,000 fewer people employed when compared to July of 2019.”  The new laws have helped some of those unemployed workers regain their jobs. National Restaurant Association Vice President Mike Whatley stated that if the sale of cocktails-to-go does not remain permanent, it will delay the full recovery of bars and restaurants. 

Prior to the pandemic, one of the few places to allow the sale of cocktails-to-go was New Orleans, but it appears the Crescent City will no longer be an exception to the old rules.  To improve the economy more rapidly and help get restaurant and bar employees back to work, more states should make the sale of cocktails-to-go permanent.