In an effort to assist restaurants and respond to consumer demand, State Sens. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, and John Yudichak, I-Luzerne, have introduced S.B. 1138, which would permanently authorize cocktails-to-go. The PA Chamber supports this renewed push to legalize the sale of cocktails-to-go in bars and restaurants.
In the early days of the pandemic, bars and restaurants were temporarily given this new source of revenue to help them survive the closures and restrictions. When the General Assembly ordered the emergency declaration to expire last June, these establishments lost their ability to sell takeout cocktails. Legislation that would authorize cocktails-to-go as well as allow grocery and convenience stores to sell so-called ready-to-drink canned cocktails has been stalled since last summer.
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. In fact, a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association found that 76 percent of restaurant operators report that their sales volumes are still down compared to the period before the COVID pandemic.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, 33 states adopted alcohol-to-go programs in the early days of COVID-19, with 16 of those states making their programs permanent. At the same time, another 15 have provided extended approval to their programs. New York’s governor has urged making drinks-to-go permanent, while New Jersey lawmakers approved legislation last year allowing local governments to authorize cocktails-to-go.
Senate Bill 1138 is before the Senate Law and Justice Committee.