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Restaurants allowed to sell to-go cocktails during stay-at-home orders

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Posted at 5:42 PM, Mar 25, 2020

Cocktails to-go: They were once something you could only get in places like Bourbon Street or on the Las Vegas Strip but now local businesses are taking advantage of changes to the state's alcoholic beverage laws that allow them to sell cocktails as take-out options.

The California ABC or Alcoholic Beverage Control has updated its regulations to help businesses and restaurants still be able to make money while shelter at home orders are in place.

"We have a lot of money tied up in inventory in our distilled spirits and not having the ability to move them because we cannot actually have diners in our restaurant has been a little bit crippling. So the relief act is actually pretty incredible for restaurants to be able to loosen up their inventory and hopefully bring in a little bit more revenue, keep the lights on a little bit longer," explained Samantha Welch, Director of Front of House Operations for Novo.

Places like Novo and Finney's Crafthouse and Kitchen in downtown San Luis Obispo are offering the cocktails to-go and say, so far, the response has been great.

"[Customers] are very excited. I think everyone right now is just trying to stay sane," said Ashley Cutter, Managing Partner of Finney's Crafthouse and Kitchen.

"The first-day people that were coming in thought they were getting away with something because it's never been something we were allowed to do," Welch said.

But before you pick them up, the California Highway Patrol says be mindful of how you plan on transporting the beverages.

"If you're driving a sedan or something with a trunk, secure the alcoholic beverage in the trunk. If you're in an SUV that doesn't necessarily have a trunk, it's going to have to be somewhere out of reach of the typical passenger compartment," explained Officer Mike Poelking, Public Information Officer for CHP San Luis Obispo.

That means the cocktails can't go in the drink holders on the doors or in the center console.

The CHP says those who are found to be driving with cocktails within reach could face citations similar to a speeding ticket and they still plan to be vigilant looking for those who could be driving under the influence.

There are some important things to remember if you plan to partake in this new service. While the state's ABC is allowing cocktails to-go, you have to order food along with it and you can't bring your own cup. All containers have to be sealed without holes for straws.

In a statement to KSBY, the California Alcoholic Beverage Control said:

This is a very difficult time for everyone including California's alcoholic beverage industry. It is estimated that the 93,000 businesses the California ABC licenses provide employment to over a million Californians. Those industry employees need paychecks to support themselves, their families and loved ones. Many Californians have filed for unemployment recently and this temporary regulatory relief could ease some of the State's economic stress. ABC's Notice of Regulatory Relief is just temporary to help California during the COVID 19 pandemic. ABC Agents continue enforcing alcoholic beverage laws, protecting California youth, and ABC has also placed restrictions on the transportation of "mixed drinks" to go that are now permissible under the Notice of Regulatory Relief. The regulatory relief provides for a modest temporary extension of that privilege and is a balanced approach under the circumstances. The alcohol can only be provided to patrons with food, and any alcohol sold must be in sealed containers that are to be transported in the trunk of the car. The Department has licensing and enforcement authority. The Department must balance the needs of the alcohol and hospitality industry against public safety concerns. Many industry organizations, licensees, and employees of licensees reached out to the department looking for relief since much of their business relied on people congregating in one place. The changes were suggested by the department stakeholders, vetted within the Department and other governmental bodies to ensure that the Department's duty to protect public safety would not be unjustifiably hindered by the temporary loosening of the restrictions in place.