Oregon Legislature passes bill allowing cocktails to-go

It’s a decision many say could throw a lifeline for businesses that have struggled to remain afloat in this pandemic.

Posted: Dec 22, 2020 6:14 PM
Updated: Dec 22, 2020 6:16 PM

OREGON -- In a special session Monday, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill that will allow to-go cocktail sales for restaurants and bars once signed and enforced.

It’s a decision many say could throw a lifeline for businesses that have struggled to remain afloat in this pandemic.

Laura Hines and Joe Kiefer-Lucas are partners and managers of Bar Purlieu in Eugene.

“The mental stress of coming up with new ideas has been a full-time job for us on its own and utterly exhausting,” Hines said.

“A big part of our job from our perspective is the atmosphere -- service and the drink -- you cut all of that out and it's just the food,” Kiefer-Lucas said. "That’s a different business than we were doing.”

There are limits in the new rules. The cocktails must be served in a sealed container, and there’s a limit of two per person. They must be purchased with a sizeable amount of food.

The selling of to-go cocktails will be allowed until 60 days after the end of Governor Brown’s Emergency Order. She recently extended that to March 3, 2021.

There’s a second part to the bill that will bring some relief to even more restaurants. It's a limit on the fees a third-party delivery company like GrubHub and DoorDash can place on a restaurant.

Jason Brandt is the president and CEO of the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association.

“The passage of these helpful measures are certainly not the end all and be all unfortunately for restaurants,” Brandt said. “They are steps in the right direction not leaps. We still have hundreds if not thousands of restaurant operators and hotels that are struggling to get to the other end of this pandemic."

Adam Smith is the Vice President of State Government Relations for the Distilled Spirits Council.

“I couldn't imagine if I was a restaurant owner in Oregon a better Christmas present or holiday gift,” Smith said.

Concerns about the passage of the bill have already been sparked.

“There are laws in place about consuming an open beverage in a car already,” Smith said. “We would just remind everyone in the public to be responsible. Enjoy the beverage at home when you get there."

Hines also weighed in.

“I know there's certain people that are concerned about the safety of cocktails to-go,” Hines said. “What people don't often realize is cocktails are quite diluted to a beer or to a glass of wine. You can't drink and drive with a beer in your car, and you can't drink and drive with an unsealed cocktail in your car. It's the same thing.”

More than 30 states allow restaurants and bars to sell cocktails to-go. This is a permanent decision for Iowa and Ohio, and several other states are considering doing the same.

“The reality is we've been watching states literally all surrounding us on all corners pass this legislation,” Brandt. “To-go cocktails is a helpful tool in the toolkit. We have to find new, creative and innovative ways to generate revenue to try to help these small businesses survive.”

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Data is updated nightly.

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