Washington, D.C., May Permanently Legalize To-Go Cocktails

If there's a silver lining for the bars and restaurants that have been hit by the COVID-19 lockdowns, it's the widespread loosening of liquor laws. 


If there is a silver lining for the bars and restaurants that have been hit by the COVID-19 lockdowns, it has been the widespread loosening of liquor laws. 

Across the country, cities and states have allowed for the sale of to-go cocktails and other types of alcohol for off-premise consumption. It won't save the bar business, but it has turned into a temporary lifeline for many purveyors of fine drinks—and a new convenience for anyone stuck at home who still wants to imbibe. 

With any luck, however, those temporary lifelines will become permanent reforms. And that might start in Washington, D.C. 

Barred in DC, a blog covering the area's bar scene, reports that Mayor Muriel Bowser is proposing to change the city's liquor laws to make to-go cocktail sales permanent (probably with a food-purchase requirement) while expanding the hours during which off-premise liquor sales are allowed. To-go drinks were initially allowed on a temporary, emergency basis. Under proposed changes in a recent Fiscal Impact Statement, those emergency rules would be made permanent. In some ways, it's fitting for an industry that has found itself in what feels like a permanent emergency. 

Nor is Bowser the only politician talking about permanently extending the new liquor regime. After extending the state's to-go allowances, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted last month that he might just let the new rules stay in place forever. 

This is good news. More cities and states should follow. 

Many of the restrictions that have been lifted are hangovers from the decades after Prohibition when laws restricting public drunkenness became laws restricting public alcohol consumption of any kind—which meant bars had to restrict sales to on-site consumption. As Jacob Grier wrote for Reason last week in a piece arguing for ending open container restrictions that prevent the consumption of alcohol in public spaces, enforcement of these types of laws has tended to fall most heavily on minorities. 

The coronavirus and the state-mandated business closures it has wrought have been unquestionably awful for the bar and restaurant business. Some estimates suggest that a quarter or more of all U.S. restaurants will never open again. We've already lost important places like Pegu Club, one of the world's greatest cocktail bars, and more such closures are likely to follow. Permanently loosening alcohol sale and consumption restrictions won't undo the damage that's been done. But maybe, just maybe, when the world does eventually reopen, it will be with alcohol consumption policies that are more sensible and flexible.

NEXT: A Second Round of Strict Lockdowns Could Come Quicker Than We Think

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  1. Greg Abbott said the same thing for Texas about a month ago. It was said so casually it was almost as if he just shrugged and thus it became law. Or as the libertarian in me prefers, he shrugged and another wall came down.

    1. But noone from reason lives there so it’s basically a local news story.

      1. Actually, I believe Jacob Sullum actually does live in the DFW area…so maybe he just figured we all knew already.

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  2. Jesus H Christ, Suderman. This is why no body takes libertarians seriously. Outlawed cocktails??? My word what ever will we do????? Make them ourselves???? The horror!!!!!!!!!!

    There’s a genocide in Yemen, a 20 year war in half the Middle East, the Fed, the prison industrial complex and the country is in the middle of becoming a police state that judges are nodding along to left and right over a disease with a less than 1% fatality rate. I can do this all day. Your government is stealing, kidnapping and murdering everyday with impunity.

    But… but…. cocktails!!!! You are a fucking joke.

    1. – genocide in Yemen – tragic but to be blunt, not our problem
      – 20 year war in the Middle East – also not really our problem
      – the Fed – ours but you yet haven’t defined what you think the problem is
      – overreactions to coronavirus – how have you managed to miss the dozens of articles published hear every day on exactly that topic?

      Revoking unnecessarily intrusive booze laws won’t solve all the world’s problems but it’s still a right thing to do. Anything that reduces the number of excuses cops have for armed confrontations is a positive step.

      1. Actually, it looks like more opportunities for “open container” violations.

        1. Open container laws are the one that bar to-go cocktails, so allowing them essentially means repealing open container laws (when not in a vehicle anyway)

      2. – Genocide in Yemen – We are backing the Saudis with arms and some troops. Even if we weren’t we’re not doing anything to prevent one of our “closest allies in the region” from doing this. This is absolutely our federal government’s and thus your problem.
        – 20 year war in the Middle East – Are you shitting me? We haven’t spent trillions of dollars of tax payer money, started 5 wars that weren’t declared by congress and completely destablized the region to the point where millions of people are fleeing and creating a refugee crisis? That’s not our problem. You fascinate me.
        – The Fed – Volumes have been written on this. A secret “private organization” that gets to print money as it sees fit, gift it to well connected private firms and cause massive inflation that deprives you of your ability to create savings?
        – I haven’t missed their toothless daily apologies for the states and the feds gifting themselves unlimited powers to crack the skulls of their supplicants who refuse to lock themselves in their homes to avoid the sniffles.

        The point I’m making is that your government steals your money and uses it to commit crimes that would land average citizens 20 consecutive life sentences and they do this with impunity.

        There is nothing preventing Suderman from making all the goddamn appletinis he wants while he watches Cuomo sodomize his wife.

        If we want to be taken seriously, we need to have a sense of proportion to the crimes being committed by the state. By some estimates there are more than 50,000 SWAT raids a year on sovereign citizens. Suderman writes articles that Carrie Bradshaw would find vapid and trite. He’s an embarrassment.

        1. I think humans (and even libertarians) have the capacity to carry more than one thought and feeling in their head at a time. Otherwise, how can you be wasting your time reading Reason articles and comments, when there’s so much hand-wringing to be done?

          1. Fair enough. I got too worked up. However, I stand behind the fact that Suderman’s beat is just an extra long repetitive Brickbat and it wouldn’t hurt him to write about something a little more substantial once and a while. Just to show he’s not waiting it out until he gets the call up from Vox or Salon.

    2. All the great things we could be doing in this world …. and you choose a comment? Have you no shame? You can do better! Join the Peace Corps or something.

  3. I suspect they want to keep the voters drunk until the second Wednesday in November.

  4. Wyoming has only one type of liquor license. Selling bottles of whisky and beer or drinks at a restaurant, it is the same. Also, you can drive up to a window in Evanston and get a G&T or martini to go.
    It is legal to drink and drive, but illegal to be drunk and drive – a fine point often missed by some cowboys.

  5. Tiny babies will be downing strawberry daiquiris on the street and Reason doesn’t even care.

    1. Sounds like a Henry Darger painting.

  6. Speaking of drunk, has anyone else found the Reason site today to be comatose and unresponsive? Or is it just me?

    1. You know who else is comatose and unresponsive?

      1. Not Hitler’s brain, since they brought it back to life.

        (And if you don’t like that joke, at least appreciate the fact that I didn’t say “Yo momma”)

        1. That was supposed to be the straight line for a Title IX joke, but there are so many alternatives. The Supreme court, for example.

          1. Was thinking it was a biden setup

      2. The Ohio General Assembly.

  7. to-go alcohol always an option for the risk-taker.

  8. also the Absolut To-Go ad would have a styrofoam bottle.

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  11. More people drinking at home alone. Great.

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