Cheers to Giving Restaurants Freedom to Sell To-Go Cocktails with Dinner

Cheers to Giving Restaurants Freedom to Sell To-Go Cocktails with Dinner

If you’re a foodie like me, one of the worst parts of the Covid-19 pandemic has been not being able to go out to a great restaurant for lunch or dinner.

It’s been sad to see many of my favorite restaurants here in Sacramento – including Biba, 33rd Street Bistro, and Español – close their doors in large part due to the drop off in business from the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders.

With indoor dining disallowed for most of 2020, many restaurants have turned to take out orders to stay afloat.  I’ve tried to support my favorite restaurants a few times a month by picking up dinner.

Some of these restaurants have been pretty innovative in their takeout orders.  My brother is a general manager of one of the Melting Pot fondue restaurants in Virginia.  He told me about their to-go fondue, which I have tried at their Sacramento location and thought was terrific.

Another cool thing to see has been restaurants offering bottles of wine for pick up with your dinner, and even to-go cocktails.  Hawks Provisions and Public House, one of my favorites, is known for its craft cocktails.  With their Monday night fried chicken special, you can also buy a Manhattan for 2 (theirs is especially good) or a bottle of their house-made TikiGria (a fortified wine spirit cured with seasonal fruit and mixed with an anise liqueur, cinnamon liqueur, and rum).

Hawks and other California restaurants are able to sell to-go cocktails thanks to a temporary change in state regulations adopted last year by the California Department of Beverage Control.

Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, has introduced legislation (Senate Bill 389) that would make this practice permanent.  The bill would require that sales of to-go cocktails must accompany a food purchase, and “appropriate standards” to ensure no sales are made to minors.

SB 389 is about helping struggling restaurants stay in business as the pandemic lingers on.

“If allowing restaurants to sell carry out cocktails alongside a meal helps keep their doors open, we must do it.  Ultimately, it’s about preserving jobs and getting our economy back on track,” Dodd said in a press release.

It’s also about freedom.

On an episode of PRI’s “Next Round” podcast last spring, we talked with public affairs professional and noted wine blogger David White of Terroirist.com.  He agrees that the temporary regulatory relief given to restaurants that should be made permanent after the pandemic.

“Freedom of choice should mean that if you’re a restaurant owner, you should have every right to sell a pre-packaged cocktail and allow folks to take it home with them.”

Making this permanent change is very popular with customers.  A 2019 survey by the National Restaurant Association – before the pandemic – found that 56 percent of adults said they would order drinks with a food delivery order from a restaurant, if permitted.  More recently, the group’s state polling “indicates that support for making off-premise alcohol delivery permanent today ranges between 70% and 85%.”

Cheers to state lawmakers for listening to their constituents and moving toward a policy change that would allow California restaurants to make a “Freedom Sunrise” as their next to-go craft cocktail.

Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s senior director of communications and the Sacramento office.

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Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.