Bill seeks to allow permanent to-go cocktails from restaurants

Feb 18, 2021

A new proposal would allow California restaurants to permanently offer to-go cocktails. 

Senator Bill Dodd from Napa said SB389 would throw businesses a lifeline as they struggle to stay afloat beyond the pandemic. Dodd said he thinks the plan would have bipartisan support.

“These restaurants that are hurting, aren’t in just Democrat or Republican areas," Dodd said. "They are in all areas.”

The bill would allow restaurants to continue sales of pre-mixed drinks as long as those drinks are purchased with food. The allowance would apply solely to businesses that serve both.

“Nobody is going to go out and buy a vodka tonic to go," Dodd said. "A lot of the time, what’s happening, these are nice upscale restaurants and these are mixologists making different types of cocktails.”

Josh Cantrell with the Mark Bar and Grill in San Luis Obispo said selling booze to go during the pandemic has kept their doors open and could help them recover lost ground.

“If you picture the restaurant being a body, the bloodline of most restaurants -- the biggest money maker-- is the beverage side of it,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell said he believes even after the pandemic ends, it’ll take some time before all of their customers are comfortable drinking inside a restaurant again.

He said extending the ability to sell drinks to go will ease that transition period.

“When everything can open back up, you’re going to have a lot of people that are more cautious and are going to enjoy the to-go cocktail because they feel safer at home,” Cantrell said.

Dodd said he understands concerns about a slippery slope, but he thinks those concerns are overblown.

“I think our alcohol rules and regulations are very sound," Dodd said. "If you’re worried about alcohol in the streets or anything else, I just do not think that this bill furthers those types of concerns. I think it’s more about helping our small businesses in the State of California.”

The bill is likely to reach the Senate floor in April or May.