Maryland cocktails-to-go law helping restaurants recover from downturn during Covid


HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — During the pandemic, many restaurant patrons were able to order cocktails to-go. But this may be one of those Covid rules that are not going away anytime soon.

Do you want that margarita to go? How’s that affecting retail liquor sales in the state of Maryland?
Among the bills signed into law by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan after the General Assembly adjourned, is a two-year extension of the rule that patrons can order to-go alcoholic beverages from restaurants. Establishments suffered from restrictions on patronage during Covid. Figures show that 90,000 eateries across the country went out of business. But with patrons coming back, it’s okay now in Maryland and nearly 20 other states to make to-go cocktails permanent.

Says Pedro Nunez at the popular Cacique Restaurant here, people like to take the experience from here to home. and our experience is a good margarita. Cocktails to-go just complements the take-home experience he says. but what about retail liquor establishments?

Says Kirk Grooms, manager at Longmeadow Wine & Liquors, “we’ve had a big increase in online ordering. Curbside pickups have continued. I don’t think the buying drinks from the restaurants has hurt us at all.”

Believe it or not, the new law is seen as the most dramatic change in state alcohol laws since the repeal of prohibition in 1933. Even delivery services like Doordash and Grub-Hub can cash in. So-called open carry laws don’t change so it’s not okay to “sip & walk.” But for some dining establishments, the relaxed law has made up for 30 percent of sales. For Nunez and Cacique, it’s all good.

“Now, people like to spend time at home too,” says Nunez. “With the family. and with a margarita!”

In some states, concerns have been raised the new law may be encouraging teenagers to drink. But with the economic nosedive in the restaurant industry, the flexibility to offer alcohol-to-go has taken priority.

At least 15 other states are contemplating a law like Maryland’s to allow cocktails-to-go.

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