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Some Philly Restaurants Seem to Be Unaware That To-Go Cocktails Are Still Illegal

Bars and restaurants with the right permit can sell bottles and cans of beer and wine for takeout, but they clearly need more options now

mason jar with lid and straw and reddish liquid inside
Selling mixed drinks to go is not yet legal in Pennsylvania.

Cocktails to go may soon become a reality in Pennsylvania, with the state House of Representatives last week voting yes on a temporary change to liquor laws during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s designed to help bars and restaurants who are flailing while dining rooms are closed. But it hasn’t passed the Senate or been signed into law by the governor yet — a key piece several Philly restaurants don’t seem too concerned with.

Some Philly restaurant owners either aren’t aware selling cocktails to go is still illegal in this state, or think no one is paying attention right now. In a quick search on Tuesday — aka Cinco de Mayo, a holiday associated here with drinking — Eater counted eight restaurants and bars openly advertising takeout cocktails, mostly margaritas, and received tips about several others in neighborhoods throughout the city.

“It’s OK, they changed the law,” said one bartender at a restaurant with multiple big signs advertising cocktails to go.

A restaurateur who owns a few Philly venues and was promoting cocktails to go on social media told Eater, through his publicist, that he saw other places selling mixed drinks with takeout orders. He named two restaurants who are selling cocktail kits, not mixed drinks.

The online ordering page for one of his restaurants included “road sodas”: mixed drinks one consumes in a car.

Eater reached out to other owners who, not too surprisingly, declined to comment. Meanwhile, the Inquirer reported that the state police issued warnings to three bars and restaurants not in the Philly area who were selling cocktails.

Pennsylvania bars and restaurants with the right permit can sell bottles and cans of beer and wine for takeout. But bars and restaurants clearly need more options now. In April, a National Restaurant Association survey showed that the Pennsylvania food service industry anticipated losing more than $1.8 billion in sales by the end of the month.

Nationally, restaurants typically make about 30 percent of revenue from alcohol sales.