Pennsylvania bars and restaurants could start selling customers mixed drinks to go again if a proposal from the state Senate is approved.
These drinks were popular early in the pandemic, when catering businesses lacked sales during the state’s indoor dining ban. Liquor regulators have temporarily allowed establishments licensed to sell alcohol to provide mixed drinks to go – as long as they don’t exceed 64 ounces and are sold before 11 p.m.
Bar owners were then disappointed when Pennsylvania’s Liquor Control Board had to ban take-out cocktails again after the state’s declaration of a pandemic emergency ended last year. Before that happened, lawmakers tried and failed to fully legalize the drinks. Although a majority in both houses voted in favor of the idea last summer, it did not receive the final Senate vote it needed to be sent to Governor Tom Wolf’s office.
The senses. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and John Yudichak (I-Carbon) are mounting another effort and, like last time, expect broad support.
“The Republicans and Democrats I’ve spoken to realize that this industry has been one of the hardest hit, so to speak, during the pandemic and the shutdowns,” Laughlin said.
“This legislation will give restaurants and bars the ability to maintain cash flow and expand their offerings, helping them recover.”
Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) said last summer she would not call a take-out cocktail measure for a vote until lawmakers decide whether to keep permanently pandemic-era rules regarding outdoor cocktail service. Months later, they solved the problem by approving a bill allowing bars and restaurants to sell cocktails within 300 meters of their own premises.
Although people can once again dine at restaurants in Pennsylvania, Chuck Moran of the state’s Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association said bringing back cocktails to go would still be helpful.
“The virus is still there and some customers are hesitant to walk into a restaurant, sit down and enjoy a meal,” Moran said. “So you still have to get past that and then of course you don’t know what’s going to happen next winter.”
Moran said supporters of the first take-out cocktail bill soured when a few Republicans passed a measure to also legalize canned or ready-to-drink cocktails. Democrats were among those who opposed the move, saying canned cocktails would have made it easier to privatize Pennsylvania’s liquor industry.
Laughlin said he would agree to legalizing these drinks, but only as part of a separate bill.
“The way people buy alcohol in Pennsylvania is changing. I think we can all see that,” he said. -to-drink, I just don’t want her attached to this [cocktails-to-go] legislation.”
Laughlin and Yudichak’s effort, known as Senate Bill 1138, now awaits a state Senate committee hearing and vote.