Many areas across the country have allowed restaurants and bars to sell alcohol either to go or for delivery while dine-in business has shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, though some are looking to make the change permanent, even as dining rooms begin to reopen.
Since large-scale coronavirus restrictions went into place, most states have loosened restrictions around restaurants and bars selling alcohol to-go, in most cases requiring that the beverage be in its sealed, original container.
Most of those allowances will expire when the coronavirus emergency passes, though, unless alcohol control guidelines are changed to make the measures permanent.
That’s exactly what New York state Senator Brad Hoylman — a Democrat from Manhattan — would like to see, with a new proposal aiming to allow bars and restaurants in New York state to continue serving alcohol even after coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has also signaled he might not be opposed to continuing alcohol to-go, tweeting in April “From what I hear from Texans, we may just let this keep on going forever,” and the state has allowed restaurants to keep selling alcohol to-go even after moving to Phase 2 of its reopening.
On Thursday, Michigan legislators introduced bills to allow to-go cocktails and create outdoor “social districts” that would be exempt from open container laws, with state senator Mallory McMorrow saying it could take up to 18 months for restaurants to recover.
Efforts have also emerged through other cities across the country, like petitions in Memphis and Chicago that have garnered thousands of signatures, asking to either extend the timeframe of alcohol to-go or expand what can be sold to-go.
Alcohol to-go has been met with positive reactions in many areas, especially New York City, and has been seen as a major lifeline for keeping restaurants and bars from going out of business.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, most restaurants will try to make alcohol sales account for around 30% of their revenue, though this revenue channel is typically cut off for take out orders, which is becoming an increasingly popular way of ordering from restaurants — especially with options like UberEats, Postmates and Door Dash that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
Despite photos on social media that might make it seem otherwise, simply allowing to-go orders of alcoholic beverages doesn’t make it legal to drink while walking down the street or sitting in a public park, unless laws are already on the books saying you can do so. In almost all of the country, though, allowing that would call for a change in open container laws, and it doesn’t seem there is much of an appetite among lawmakers to do that yet.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
It’s unclear when permanent measures might be voted on, as state legislatures are still figuring out how they plan to reconvene.