New York Says No, But Other States Say Yes to Takeout Cocktails

By: - June 28, 2021 12:00 am

Bartender Alyssa Dooley makes a cocktail at Mo’s Irish Pub in Houston. A growing number of states are extending cocktails-to-go measures or making them permanent. David J. Phillip/The Associated Press

Cocktails-to-go in New York came to an abrupt stop last week when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo ended his state of emergency, which had allowed restaurants and bars to sell alcoholic beverages for delivery and takeout.

The action came after the state legislature failed to approve a measure that would have extended the practice.

The move stunned New York restaurant owners and was criticized by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a trade group.

“New York was one of the first to adopt cocktails-to-go in support of struggling hospitality businesses, and now, businesses that relied on this revenue stream to keep their doors open and their workers employed have been stripped of that opportunity,” spokesperson Ainsley Holyfield said in an email.

But the same week New York pulled away, Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law extending cocktails-to-go for restaurants and bars in his state until July 1, 2025.

Colorado joins three other states that have given the thumbs up to takeout cocktails in June, and other states are extending their programs.

Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a measure that extends to-go drinks until 2024. In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker did the same, extending the practice until next May. The Massachusetts bill faced opposition from a trade group for the state’s liquor stores.

And on June 11, Oregon Democratic Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill that makes cocktails-to-go permanent in her state.

The Missouri and Rhode Island legislatures also have passed takeout cocktails measures. The bills await review by those states’ governors.

“We are pleased to see so many states taking action to support the devastated hospitality industry and hope more will follow suit,” Holyfield said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 35 states decided to let restaurants and bars offer take-out cocktails to help them during the economic downturn, according to the distilled spirits group. Takeout beer and wine were included as well.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have made those measures permanent and 12 others have extended cocktails-to-go through legislation.

Some health care advocates oppose the practice, saying it makes alcohol more easily available and could lead to increased substance use disorder and underage drinking.

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Jenni Bergal

Jenni Bergal covers transportation, infrastructure and cybersecurity for Stateline. She has been a reporter at Kaiser and the Center for Public Integrity.