During a hearing today before the Ohio House Commerce and Labor Committee, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) submitted testimony in support of HB 669, legislation to permanently allow the sale of cocktails to-go from restaurants and bars.

The testimony, submitted by DISCUS Vice President of State Government Relations David Wojnar, underscored that cocktails to-go have provided a vital economic boost to struggling restaurants and bars. Since the pandemic hit the United States, cocktails to-go measures have been approved in more than 30 states with New Jersey and Illinois becoming the most recent states to pass legislation extending the business- and consumer-friendly measure.

“Thousands of hospitality businesses across Ohio including restaurants, taverns, bars, distilleries, and their retail sales operations and tasting rooms have been closed for several weeks,” Wojnar stated in his written testimony. “According to the National Restaurant Association, sales at restaurants were down 78 percent in the first few weeks of the nationwide lockdown, causing restaurants to lay off 86 percent of employees. Clearly, this has had a devastating impact on the thousands of people employed by on-premise establishments in Ohio. Cocktails to-go has become a much-needed lifeline for struggling on-premise locations.”

The legislation makes permanent Governor Mike DeWine’s April 7 executive order, which permits on-premise establishments with liquor licenses to sell cocktails to-go.  Under the bill, drinks must be sold in closed containers and consumers must be at least 21 years of age. Additionally, distilleries making less than 100,000 gallons of spirits per year would be allowed to deliver their sealed spirits products to consumers.

Currently, 33 states plus the District of Columbia are allowing restaurants and/or bars to sell cocktails to-go, bottled spirits to-go or both. Eighteen states plus the District of Columbia are allowing restaurants and/or bars to deliver distilled spirits in some form. In addition, 12 states plus the District of Columbia are now permitting curbside pickup of distilled spirits from restaurants and/or bars.

Other states, including Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and the District of Columbia, are also considering making these policies permanent.

The distilled spirits industry is committed to responsibility and encourages moderation for adults who choose to drink alcohol. Cocktails to-go are intended for home consumption. Laws governing alcohol consumption must always be observed.