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To-go cocktails made permanently legal in more states

Florida and Texas are the latest states to make to-go cocktails a permanent fixture.
To-go cocktails have helped bars and restaurants stay afloat throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
To-go cocktails have helped bars and restaurants stay afloat throughout the coronavirus pandemic.Blue Amber Design / Shutterstock

To-go cocktails may become a permanent fixture in some parts of the country, even as many of the coronavirus restrictions are lifted in much of the country.

The portable alcoholic drinks were first offered early in the pandemic, as restaurants and bars struggled to stay afloat and states relaxed regulations. Before the pandemic, more than two dozen states allowed restaurants to sell beer and wine to-go, but not mixed drinks, according to the Pew Research Center. During the pandemic, restrictions were loosened.

Now, 11 states have made their rules permanent, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. Iowa, Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Montana, Arkansas, West Virginia, Georgia, Oklahoma and, most recently, Texas and Florida, will make their pandemic drink rules permanent.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who signed a bill making to-go cocktails legal in his state on Thursday, said that public support for takeout drinks made the decision easy.

“It worked well, people liked it, there was a good response, so we said this should be something that we just make permanent,” DeSantis said.

In Texas, lawmakers highlighted how to-go beverages helped restaurants survive.

"Something as simple as letting Texans safely pick up and transport a cocktail from their local restaurant allowed thousands of businesses to keep operating, employ staff, and serve their communities for years to come,” said state senator Kelly Hancock, Chairman of the Senate Business & Commerce Committee, according to KXAS, NBC's Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate.

Many other states are taking steps to change the laws: Arizona, California, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Pennsylvania all have active bills that would make the COVID-19-era rules permanent, according to Food & Wine.

Some states, including Delaware, Maine, Virginia and Washington have approved extending to-go cocktail rules until at least 2022.

"State legislatures are stepping in to pass bills to extend cocktails to-go or to make the popular measure permanent to provide restaurants with some long-term stability as they slowly get back to normal operations," said Lisa Hawkins, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for the Distilled Spirits Council. "Legislators recognize that just because restaurants are reopening, it does not mean they have recovered."

Rules on transporting to-go drinks vary from state to state. In Texas, drinks will need to be "sealed in their original manufacturer-containers or in a tamper-proof container labeled with the business' name," and the drink cannot be in the vehicle's passenger area. In Ohio, there is a limit of three alcoholic drinks per order, and the drinks must be ordered with food.


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