HARRISBURG, Pa. — By a 48-0 vote, the Pennsylvania Senate Wednesday passed a bill that would allow taverns and licensed restaurants in the Commonwealth to sell mixed spirit drinks to-go during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order.
HB 327, which was also passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, now heads to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf, who will decide whether to sign it into law.
The bill states that those holding valid restaurant or hotel liquor licenses that have lost more than 25 percent of their average monthly sales -- including alcohol sales -- as a result of restrictions imposed during COVID-19 mitigation efforts can sell the mixed drinks in sealed to-go containers no greater than 64 fluid ounces in a single transaction.
If it is signed into law, Pennsylvania will join 33 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing restaurants or bars to sell cocktails to go, bottled spirits to go, or both, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
“The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit during COVID-19," the Council said in a press statement reacting to the bill's passing. "The opportunity for Pennsylvania’s restaurants to sell cocktails to-go will be a valuable economic lifeline during this pandemic.
"This critical revenue stream will help support struggling hospitality industry workers, while providing adult consumers with the convenience of enjoying their favorite restaurant’s specialty cocktail in the comfort of their home. We are grateful the legislature continues to seek out consumer-friendly solutions to expand access to distilled spirits and help alleviate some of the negative impacts of the statewide closures of all Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores during COVID-19.”
Chuck Moran, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, also issued a statement Wednesday.
"With every day that passes, Pennsylvania’s small business taverns and licensed restaurants move closer to financial ruin," Moran said. "These establishments were among the first businesses to either close or limit services as part of Governor Wolf’s Business Closure Order to fight the spread of COVID-19, and have been told they will not be allowed to resume operations until their counties enter the green phase. Business owners have been deprived of their operations and income, and are facing permanent closure, while many employees have lost their jobs.
"Today, the Pennsylvania Senate joined the House of Representatives in almost unanimously throwing a lifeline to help keep taverns and restaurants from sinking faster. HB 327 would allow taverns and licensed restaurants to sell mixed spirit drinks to go with a few limitations for quantity, container, and time of day. This gives establishments one more small revenue stream to help them survive.
"Every little bit counts. HB 327 in combination with other business saving opportunities can make a difference."