(Shutterstock Photo/Blue Amber Design KC) To-Go Cocktails
(Shutterstock Photo/Blue Amber Design KC)

Newly-introduced legislation would permanently allow Pennsylvania bars and restaurants to sell cocktails to go.

For the first year of the pandemic, to-go cocktails in Pennsylvania were part of the “new normal,” as lawmakers temporarily legalized the sale of takeaway mixed drinks to give financially battered bars and restaurants a much-needed source of revenue.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board ended the sale of to-go cocktails in June 2021. But with four neighboring states (New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, and Ohio) making the sale of to-go cocktails permanent, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul urging her state legislature to do the same, two lawmakers are looking to bring back the sale of takeaway margaritas and martinis for good in the commonwealth.

State Sens. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and John Yudichak (I-Luzerne) last week introduced Senate Bill 1138, which would permanently allow Pennsylvania bars and restaurants to sell cocktails to go.

In a memo announcing the bill, Laughlin pointed to an urgent need for the legislation with Pennsylvania’s bars and restaurants still digging out from pandemic-induced financial hardships and some facing the possibility of shutting down. 

“During a recent hearing conducted by the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee, statewide business advocates and entrepreneurs told lawmakers that recovery has not started for many small businesses,” Laughlin said. “We need to continue supporting our businesses in Pennsylvania, giving them additional options to help them recover and avoid permanent closure. This legislation will do that.” 

According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, Pennsylvania was one of 33 states to adopt alcohol-to-go programs in the early days of the pandemic. In total, 16 of those states made their programs permanent, while another 15 (including neighboring Maryland) have provided extended approval to their programs. 

The bill has been referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee.