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States Declare 'Last Call' for At-Home Happy Hour

This pandemic has been nothing less than what some might call “earth-shattering, causing a downward spiral for millions.” Many of us drank our weight in alcohol last year due to unemployment, screaming children, and overall, lacking a sense of normalcy. As states reopen and attempt to get back to normal, we are beginning a new life with new perspectives, different jobs, and the freedom to make flexible choices. While many people are beginning to dine in again, others find it hard to break the cycle of staying home in sweats, binge-watching their favorite show, and having a few too many alcoholic beverages. While not all of us could be professional home bartenders, state liquor authorities have started permitting to-go cocktails in May 2020. Soon after, to-go cocktail orders were flying out the door of establishments. Sother Teague, a beverage director of a New York bar called Amor y Amargo, claims that almost 10% of the bar’s total revenue in the past week came from to-go alcoholic beverages alone. 

Unfortunately, this cocktail game-changer can’t last forever for some states. On June 24th, Governor Cuomo of New York announced the ending of lockdown and reopening of the state, pushing state liquor authority to end the rights to sell to-go cocktails. Businesses have been dreaming of this day for well over a year; now that the time has come, it’s not as they pictured. After ordering in bulk to keep up with the lockdown drink orders, many bars and restaurants, including Amor y Amargo, have an overabundance of to-go cocktail supplies and are overwhelmed with what to do with it now. 

Originally as an off-premise privilege rule, struggling businesses had another way to make money, with the uncertainty of the food and beverage industry. Fortunately, this rule allowed thousands of businesses to stay open, keeping people employed and ensuring customers wouldn’t miss out on happy hour. While New York is no longer allowing to-go cocktails, many other states are doing the opposite by making these temporary permits permanent. So far, fifteen states, including Texas and Florida, have joined in creating a new “normal” for the restaurant industry. However, other states, such as California, are still under careful deliberation. 

Concerns are being repeatedly raised to the state about competitions between liquor stores and underage drinking or driving under the influence. Trade groups that represent liquor stores believe that if these temporary permits become permanent, they will have to compete with restaurants, bars, and other establishments selling alcoholic beverages. The difference between the two businesses is simple: convenience and cost. Most decisions that we were previously making (service that we do ourselves versus having someone else do it for us) will have the same effect. Mike Whatley, the vice president of state and local affairs, expressed, “For restaurants, the road to recovery is going to be a long one. Expanded off-premise alcohol regulations are one of several policies restaurant operators will need going forward.”

Underage drinking and drunk driving have been serious issues for decades. There are strict laws in place, such as checking valid IDs, public drinking, DUI’s, and open containers, but we’re seeing statistics growing each day. Together as a society, the little things make a difference to keep others safe from hurting themselves and others. Whether it’s a friend, taxi, or Uber, always have a designated driver if you plan on going out drinking. The possible negative consequences of underage drinking and drunk driving are never worth the risk. Doing so not only impacts you but others as well. 


Author :  Jennifer Dutton, Blog Writer, DrinkLyte Co. "Helping Grow CPG Brands Beyond Their Potential"