After states across the country began imposing mandatory closures to slow the spread of COVID-19, bars, liquor stores, and restaurants had to think quickly on how to keep their operations going and their business from shutting down entirely. In response to the mandatory closing of the restaurant and bar industry, local and state governments began loosening their liquor laws, allowing a temporary change to such things as to-go liquor sales, like in New York.

To-Go Liquor: How States Are Responding

The state, which has been most affected by the novel coronavirus’ impact, announced it would allow bars and restaurants to sell liquor through delivery or Curbside Service options. This may only be a temporary move, but it’s helping these establishments keep their lights on in the meantime.

New Hampshire, Maryland, Illinois, Texas, and California have made similar temporary changes to allow alcohol delivery like New York. Certain jurisdictions, such as Washington, D.C., and Atlanta have also followed suit. Liquor laws have been relaxed quickly in light of the potential economic harm to thousands of businesses and countless employees. By doing so, local and state governments have slowed the spread of economic impact brought on by COVID-19.

Read on to see how different states are navigating alcohol takeout sales and the laws that abide over them.

Taking Temporary Measures

These states and noted jurisdictions offer some limited relief in a moment like this; Atlanta, for instance, saw a 60-day waiver for curbside service and delivery sales of liquor. When making deliveries, couriers are still required to follow existing laws, such as I.D. age verification or not serving those who are already intoxicated.

If a courier who is making a delivery for a bar or liquor store is sent out to make a delivery to someone underage or someone already intoxicated, they could be on the hook for any liabilities that could occur, such as injuries, deaths, or criminal activity. The same goes for restaurants and bars who offer curbside service.

Even with the lax in laws at the moment, there is still a lot of legal guidance to follow. In Texas, for example, bars selling drinks for delivery and curbside service can’t mix and seal their own drinks. The alcohol has to remain in its sealed container. And in New York state, any car delivering alcohol must have a copy of the business’s liquor license on hand.

The Future of Alcohol Sales

If all goes well with these temporarily relaxed liquor laws, waivers may very well be extended and potentially turn into permanent laws. The restaurant and bar industry has been introducing more curbside and delivery options in recent years, especially with the advent of social media and mobile app technology. But with the spread of COVID-19, bars and restaurants have essentially been thrust into this method of doing business.

States that suffered the most impact from COVID-19 are slowly phasing out their lockdown measures. And while states like Arizona are already offering full dine-in options, it may be a while before New York and California, for example, stray from primarily offering curbside service and delivery options for food and liquor.

Special Considerations in New York

For bars and restaurants in New York state, the plan is to open up in-house service sometime this summer. But with the way things have gone throughout the lockdown measures, it might be autumn before restaurants and bars can get back to normal. Until then, abiding by certain rules for curbside service should be continued.

They include:

  • Alcoholic beverages must be sold with food and delivered by someone with a copy of a liquor license.
  • Alcohol may only be sold during hours mandated by a local municipality. For instance, bars may not sell alcohol between 4am and 8am in New York City.
  • Anyone caught selling liquor on premises will face potentially massive fines or restrictions to their liquor license. Any business caught making on-premises alcohol sales will face a fine of up to $10,000 for retail businesses and up to $100,000 for manufacturers.

About RMS Hospitality Group

At RMS Hospitality Group, our expertly crafted policies are written specifically for the hospitality industry. We offer custom-tailored solutions to meet any venue’s specific needs. For more information, contact our knowledgeable experts today at (888) 359-8390.

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