Cocktails to go would become permanent under House bill

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Delaware House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf has introduced a bill to make to-go cocktails and expanded outdoor dining permanent.

The bill would remove a sunset provision to allow bars and restaurants to sell to-go alcoholic beverages and utilize extended outdoor seating. The expanded sales are slated to expire at the end of March unless the sunset provision is removed.

To-go cocktails come with profit margins that have helped restaurants stay alive during the worst of the pandemic. 

“While the pandemic has been extremely challenging for families and businesses across the state and country, it also has forced us to get creative at times. Restaurants and bars were among the hardest-hit industries these past two years, and we had to use some ingenuity to provide assistance,” said  Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach. “The outdoor dining and to-go cocktails options have been extremely popular and have allowed restaurants and bars to serve patrons safely. These innovations are about to expire, but even as this health crisis continues, it’s clear that there is a market and a desire for these practices to continue for good.”

The General Assembly allowed food and drink establishments to offer increased outdoor seating and to-go alcohol sales. The legislature extended those provisions from 2021 through March 2022.

Under HB 290, any restaurant, brewpub, tavern, taproom, or other entity with a valid on-premise license could sell alcoholic beverages for take-out, curbside, or drive-through service.

Unlike some states, Delaware does not allow the delivery of alcoholic beverages or any type of shipment.

“This important bipartisan legislation enables our local restaurants to focus on what they do best: serving customers and increasing the positive economic impact made on our local communities,” said Sen. Ernie Lopez, the lead Senate sponsor of the bill. “Too often, some in government have arbitrarily told businesses what they can’t do. This approach must stop. With this bill, we listened to our restaurant owners and worked together to address concerns. This legislation exemplifies the type of meaningful public policy that expands economic growth and supports local businesses that Speaker Schwartzkopf and I will continue to advance during this session of the General Assembly.”

HB 290 has been assigned to the House Administration Committee, and a hearing is slated for Tuesday.

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