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Pennsylvania Is Very Close to Letting Restaurants Sell Takeout Cocktails

You may soon be able to get a margarita to go with your food order

red cocktail
A cocktail at Center City bar Leda and the Swan
Society Hills Films

Restaurants may soon be able to sell cocktails to go in Pennsylvania, as the state considers relaxing liquor laws during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, the PA House of Representatives voted 193-9 to amend a liquor bill to temporarily allow the sale of mixed alcoholic drinks in sealed containers for takeout. It moves to the Senate next.

The new rules around cocktails are designed to take effect while bars and restaurant dining rooms are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and last through the transition period as venues start to reopen (there’s no official timeline for that process in Philly yet). Once a restaurant exceeds 60 percent of its capacity, it will no longer be permitted to sell cocktails to go.

Bars and restaurants with the right permit can already sell beer and wine for takeout.

If takeout cocktails are allowed, they can’t be more than 64 ounces — which seems sufficient for a drink, considering that’s the size of a 7-11 Double Big Gulp. And no open containers: Cups must have a secure lid or or cap. If there’s a hole for drinking or inserting a straw, it has to be covered.

Of course, this isn’t a free-for-all, and the new regulations won’t apply to every restaurant in this BYOB town. It’s only for venues that have a restaurant or hotel liquor license, lost more than 25 percent of average monthly total sales as a result of the coronavirus shutdown, and are also selling prepared food for pickup. Sales of cocktails to go will have to stop at 11 p.m.

The change is intended to help restaurants that are hemorrhaging money during the coronavirus closures. According to a National Restaurant Association survey, the Pennsylvania food service industry anticipates losing more than $1.8 billion in sales by the end of April. The survey also found that 1 percent of operators in the state had already closed their restaurants permanently and another 3 percent expect to close soon.

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