Cocktails-to-go permitted in Pa.

Open container laws still apply

May 22, 2020 Cranberry Local News

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Amanda Zapp, a bartender at The Beacon Hotel, mixes a drink Thursday at the restaurant's outdoor bar. Under a new temporary state law, businesses with liquor licenses can sell mixed drinks to go.

For the foreseeable future, businesses with a liquor license can sell cocktails-to-go.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 327, now Act 21 of 2020, on Thursday, which allows the temporary sale of cocktails-to-go from any business with a liquor license, including bars, restaurants or hotels. The law takes effect immediately.

“This new temporary rule creates more business for bars and restaurants when they need it, helps to meet customer demand and supports social distancing,” said Wolf in a statement Thursday. “As we approach the holiday weekend, I encourage all Pennsylvanians to remember to drink responsibly.”

Tricia Christy, operations manager for W. Ricks Taproom & Grill, expects the business should see a decent boost from the added capability.

“What's really missing is our alcohol sales,” Christy said. “We've been selling just growlers to go. They go well, but not tremendously. We're definitely looking forward to this.”

Debra Krelow, owner of The Beacon Hotel, said she was glad to have some relief from the burden the pandemic's restrictions created for her business, but she is also wary that cocktails in a car carries risk.

“They're encouraging people to drink and drive,” Krelow said. “Who's going to buy a drink and put it in the trunk and drive, but at this point, the licensees have to do something to survive.”

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board offered guidance Thursday, including a reminder that Pennsylvania's open container law applies.

“Please just take it home,” Krelow said. “Don't drink it while you're driving home. Go home and do it.”

The to-go cocktails must be sold in containers with a secure lid in quantities from 4 oz. to 64 oz. before 11 p.m., and the cups have to have an additional seal on the straw opening of a lid.

Among other guidance, the board also stressed that within 60 days, bars and restaurants must use a transaction scan device to verify a consumer's age if the person appears to be younger than 35 years of age.

The temporary rule expires after the COVID-19 disaster emergency ends and a business reaches 60 percent capacity.

“I printed up the bill last week and I was looking over it,” Christy said. “The parameters aren't really that hard.”

Christy said her business could have the cocktail-to-go ready to roll out sometime next week. She said before the pandemic, her customers ordered a lot of drinks consisting of rums and vodkas, and she is expecting something similar when her first customers arrive for their to-go cups.

Christy said being able to offer the new service comes as a relief after she followed the bill closely on its journey to the governor's desk, where it sat for about a week before he signed it.

“I'm just glad he finally signed it,” she said.

Butler Eagle
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Nathan Bottiger

Nathan Bottiger

Nathan Bottiger graduated with a degree in journalism in 2015 from Pitt-Johnstown. A business reporter, he also covers Slippery Rock borough, township and school district.