The Issues Created by Cocktails-To-Go

The Issues Created by Cocktails-To-GoIt is safe to say that alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic shutdown, and liquor stores are not the only establishments that have been taking advantage of it. Some states – 33 to be exact – as well as the District of Columbia have passed local laws allowing some restaurants to serve alcohol on the go.

This cocktails-to-go delivery service has been in effect for some restaurants since the beginning of the pandemic. With many eateries reaping the benefits of cocktails-to-go, organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are concerned about the long-term effects these services might have on drunk driving.

Why are restaurants offering cocktails-to-go?

Some states have allowed restaurants to engage in cocktails-to-go services to help bring in additional revenue. The restaurant industry was one of the industries hit the hardest during the pandemic, and restaurant owners have had to become creative in an attempt to keep generating revenue. Some restaurant owners stated the cocktails-to-go services have helped in rehiring employees, maintaining relationships with customers, and paying rent.

One restaurant owner, in particular, that was intentional about pressing lawmakers to allow cocktails-to-go services was Julia Momose. Momose collected petition signatures over the course of three months requiring lawmakers to allow restaurants to engage in cocktails-to-go, and her efforts were not in vain. In June, she delivered her first to-go alcoholic beverage at her Japanese-style cocktail bar.

Does each state have different regulations for cocktails-to-go services?

Carryout cocktail regulations vary from state to state. States like Pennsylvania only permitted restaurants that lost 25 percent of their monthly total sales to engage in cocktails-to-go services, while states like Arizona allow third-party delivery services to Door Dash to deliver alcohol. The majority of restaurants that offer cocktails-to-go services require customers to buy food along with their mixed drinks, while some restaurants exclude mixed drinks altogether from their alcohol delivery services.

The length of the carryout cocktail regulations also varies from state to state. Some states like Alabama only allowed carryout cocktail services until September 15 of last year, while states like Colorado and Massachusetts have extended their carryout cocktail services through this year.

Michigan has been so encouraging about the carryout cocktail services that their lawmakers have extended the services until 2025, and they are not the only state. The lawmakers in Florida, Ohio, Texas, and here in Oklahoma have expressed interest in permanently allowing carryout cocktail services in restaurants and bars. Currently, Iowa is the only state that has permanently allowed its restaurants to offer cocktails-to-go.

What are some potential concerns of carryout cocktail services?

While there is significant support for carryout cocktail services, there are significant concerns as well. One of the most obvious concerns of restaurants engaging in carryout cocktail services is the increase in drunk driving accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 10,142 people lost their lives in drunk driving accidents in the year 2019. Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have expressed concern that the easy accessibility of alcohol can lead to and even encourage drivers to engage in drunk driving.

Does the open container rule apply to cocktails-to-go?

Some state regulations require restaurant employees to package carryout cocktails in a specific manner. States like Oklahoma require their restaurant employees to serve to carry out drinks in containers that are closed and sealed. Some other states require their employees to place their carryout cocktails in certain areas of a driver’s vehicle, such as the trunk.

However, employees cannot ensure that the carryout drink will remain sealed and closed in the driver’s possession. Similar to many states, Oklahoma has an open container rule that prohibits anyone from having an open container of alcohol in their possession. Drivers who purchase carryout cocktails may be tempted to take a sip of their cocktail while they’re driving – giving in to this temptation is illegal and results in severe consequences.

Would carryout cocktails lead to an increase in underage drinking?

Another concern for public health groups regarding the use of carryout cocktails is the potential increase in underage drinking. Although all state regulations require establishments that serve alcohol to ask all consumers for identification, there are situations where loopholes can happen. In the state of Arizona, for example, where third parties like Door Dash are allowed to deliver alcohol, a minor might order an alcohol delivery from their parents’ account to engage in underage drinking.

How can lawmakers ensure that cocktail carryout regulations do not lead to drunk driving and underage drinking?

Patrick Maroney, a consultant and former liquor control officer in Colorado, stated that carryout beer and wine are different from mixed drinks because of the sealed containers and the lower amounts of alcohol. Because cocktails are mixed at the bar, the alcohol content can vary.

Maroney advised state lawmakers to make sure that police and health officials are consulted before the liquor laws are changed. He mentioned that California, in particular, experienced a spike in reports of alcohol delivery to minors in April of last year.

Other officials believe that lawmakers will have a difficult time returning to bans on carryout cocktails. Even before the pandemic occurred, restaurants were in the process of figuring out ways to deliver alcohol with food delivery services. The growing popularity of carryout cocktail services is a testament to how beneficial the services have been for the restaurant industry. Only time will tell how cocktail-to-go services affect the general population regarding drunk driving and underage drinking.

At Cunningham & Mears, our Oklahoma City lawyers guide you through all aspects of your car accident claim, from finding the right medical providers and treatment, to dealing with insurance adjusters to suing a negligent driver for personal injury or wrongful death. If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, we are here to fight for you. To learn more about our services and proven results, complete a contact form or call (405) 232-1212 today for a free initial consultation.