Cheers, PA! To-Go Cocktails Are Coming, Gov. Wolf Says

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Cocktails to go

By Jeff Taylor

May 20, 2020

“This measure will be a valuable economic lifeline that will help Pennsylvania businesses struggling with financial hardships during this pandemic.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday that he intends to sign a bill into law allowing restaurants and bars to begin serving mixed drinks to go in sealed containers for off-premises consumption. 

Establishments with a valid restaurant or hotel liquor license that have lost more than a quarter of monthly average sales, including alcohol sales, due to restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic would be allowed to sell up to 64 fluid ounces of cocktails per transaction. Restaurants and bars have been hit particularly hard due to the business shutdowns that began in the state in mid-March.

The bill, which passed with overwhelming support in both the House and Senate, states that “sealed” means any container with a secure lid. Lids with sipping holes or openings for the insertion of a straw would need to be sealed prior to sale. However, the “sealed” containers would still be considered open containers under the law and would therefore need to be transported in a trunk or some other area of the vehicle not occupied by the driver or passengers, and any business selling to-go cocktails would be required to hang signage informing customers of this fact. 

The alcoholic beverages would only be allowed to be sold until 11 p.m., and after 60 days businesses would be required to use a transaction scan device to verify the age of individuals if they appear to be under 35 years old.

The law, which would take place immediately upon signing, would remain in effect throughout the duration of the pandemic, as well as during the “mitigation period,” until the restaurant or hotel’s operation hits 60% capacity. 

“With every day that passes, Pennsylvania’s small business taverns and licensed restaurants move closer to financial ruin,” Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association Executive Director Chuck Moran said. “Business owners have been deprived of their operations and income, and are facing permanent closure, while many employees have lost their jobs.”

“This measure will be a valuable economic lifeline that will help Pennsylvania businesses struggling with financial hardships during this pandemic,” said David Wojnar, vice president of state government relations for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. “Unfortunately, the path to recovery will last well beyond the end of this crisis.”

The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association and National Restaurant Association released a report in April estimating the food service industry was projected to lose $1.8 billion in revenue that month alone. 

“Honestly, this should have happened six weeks ago,” Nicole Marquis, owner of vegan cocktail bar Charlie was a sinner, in Philadelphia, told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Restaurants and bars are the lifeblood of this city, and right now we’re bleeding out…With the full reopening of bars not even on the table yet, this feels like our only shot.”


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