Graham Kilmer

Cocktails To Go Bill Enjoys Industry Support

Seen as a life line to bars and restaurants, the bill brings up questions regarding drunk driving, and local control over liquor licensing.

By - Jan 15th, 2021 07:10 pm
Cocktails. Photo by Michael Shehan Obeysekera, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Cocktails. Photo by Michael Shehan Obeysekera, (CC BY 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Two Wisconsin legislators have authored a bill that, if passed, would open the door to bars and restaurants selling alcohol to go.

The bill makes changes to the state statute governing the sale of liquor by the glass. The bill in the Senate is sponsored by Senator Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) and in the Assembly by Representative David Steffen (R-Green Bay).

Restrictions on the sale of to-go alcohol became a widespread issue during the pandemic when in-person patronage was either barred or significantly reduced. Establishments can sell manufacturer-sealed containers, but cannot offer mixed drinks or other carryout alcohol options. Liquor licenses require on-site consumption.

If the new bill is passed, bars and restaurants need only add a tamper-evident seal to a container of booze and they can sell it to patrons for consumption anywhere

The Tavern League of Wisconsin is endorsing the proposal and explained in a Facebook post that the measure is essentially aimed at allowing the sale of cocktails to-go.

Bars and restaurants have been among the hardest hit businesses by the pandemic. Initially, they were closed under the state shutdown and since then have had to operate at limited capacities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19

The Tavern League has been aggressive in fighting public health interventions meant to slow the spread of the virus — even filing a lawsuit against DHS Secretary Designee Andrea Palm over capacity limits that were part of Emergency Order Three.

[inaricle_email_signup]It said the cocktail-to-go bill “will not solve all of the problems the industry is facing due to the COVID pandemic.” But it called the legislation a “good first step” and potentially a “lifeline until our state can return to some normalcy.”

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association also is endorsing the legislation. “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers were demanding the ability to have alcohol delivered. Now with consumers staying home and avoiding dining in restaurants or going to the grocery store, customers are demanding the safe delivery of alcohol with their restaurant and grocery deliveries.”

The association said the legislation sponsored by Fezlakowski and Steffen “makes sense.”

“Now more than ever restaurants need these kinds of tools to keep their restaurants afloat and to keep their team employed,” it said in a statement.

Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) is also backing the proposal.

“I’m happy to support this new bipartisan bill and hope for swift passage of this and other measures for small business relief during these trying times,” he said on social media.

You might not even have to leave the couch to get that mixed drink.

Rep. Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel) has also sponsored a bill that would allow grocery stores and restaurants to make alcohol deliveries.

The legislation allowing to-go cocktails is not without its opponents though.

The clearest argument against the proposal came from the Wausau City Council where a resolution has been entered that would oppose the new legislation explaining that it creates new risks for drinking and driving, underage drinking and undermines local control over liquor licensing.

The Wausau Pilot and Review quotes the resolution as saying the new cocktail to-go bill actually “encourages and increases the potential opportunities [for] alcohol consumption by operators of motor vehicles or by underage individuals.”

Read the Senate bill here.

More about the Coronavirus Pandemic

Read more about Coronavirus Pandemic here

One thought on “Cocktails To Go Bill Enjoys Industry Support”

  1. 45 years in the City says:

    Regretfully this change only acknowledges what already happens, especially in country bars. Patrons ask for their drink to be served in “a traveler” and the barkeep will obligingly put it in a plastic cup with a cover. Sometimes they will thoughtfully serve with a straw – presumably to prevent adding distracted driving to drunk driving.

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