Georgia legislation could legalize 'to-go' restaurant cocktails

A push at the state Capitol could allow Georgia restaurants to sell mixed drinks to-go.

"There is a demand for their specialty cocktails to bring home with a specialty menu item to enjoy in their own home," explained Georgia Restaurant Association CEO Karen Bremer.

Bremer said local, full-service restaurants have been the ones hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic and that alcoholic beverage are some of the highest-profit items eateries sell.  

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"A lot of these independent, full-service restaurants are in repurposed properties.  They're in a gas station that's been fixed up or an old house and so it's virtually impossible for them to do the six-foot distancing," Bremer said.  "But yet they can still produce great meals and hopefully, be able to sell their specialty old fashioned or their specialty margaritas."  

Senate Bill 236 would allow restaurants to sell two mixed drinks for every adult entrée. The drinks would be limited to no more than three ounces of distilled spirits each.  

Customers would have to be 21 or older and pick up their order in person with their ID.  Any consumers who transport drinks home in a car would be required to lock them in a glove box or trunk, or place them behind the last row of seats in a vehicle without a trunk.

"There are plenty of safeguards, we feel, in the bill," Bremer said.

Mike Griffin with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, however, said they do not support this measure or any other that loosens restrictions on alcohol.

"It doesn't really matter what the alcohol bill is, we're not [going to] be for it," Griffin explained.  "We know that accessibility equals sales. Sales equals consumption.  Consumption of alcohol always equals potential problems."  

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Griffin also said he has concerns about making a permanent change to Georgia law because of the pandemic.  

"Lord willing, we won't be this way all the time, but unfortunately, a lot of things that can be done now will just stay that way, even though conditions may change," said Griffin.

But Bremer argued that the pandemic has drastically changed consumer habits.

"It has been indicated that people will never get back to their normal routine of dining in restaurants and so this way we can help those restaurants to stay open," Bremer said.  

The Senate has already approved SB 236. A House subcommittee was scheduled to hear the bill Monday, but it was removed from the agenda.  

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