Update (May 21): Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Friday that he has signed H.B. 2773 into law, which allows bars, liquor stores, and restaurants to sell to-go cocktails.
"Businesses owners have shown that offering to-go beverages can be done responsibly and safely,” said Gov. Ducey said in a statement. “House Bill 2773 will make sure restaurants and bars have the opportunity to expand operations and meet the needs of their customers, especially after weathering the effects of the pandemic."
It's a win for restaurant owners, who said to-go cocktails helped sustain them throughout the pandemic.
Bar owners, however, will likely be unhappy with the result. Some bar owners sued Gov. Ducey last year when he allowed restaurants to serve to-go cocktails, a privilege bar owners pay for with their liquor license.
To-go cocktails at Arizona restaurants could make a return sooner than later.
The Arizona Legislature passed H.B 2773 on Monday, which would allow some Arizona restaurants to sell to-go beer, wine, and cocktails with some stipulations. That bill is now headed to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to sign or reject.
Under the bill:
- Restaurants would be allowed to apply for a lease from the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control to sell to-go beer, wine, and cocktails with a food order and to also use third-party delivery services for to-go alcohol.
- Bars will be allowed to sell to-go cocktails. They already have the ability to serve to-go beer and wine.
- Restaurants would have to stop selling to-go alcohol when their kitchen stops selling food, and third-party contractors cannot deliver alcohol between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
- These leases would be available for one year.
If signed, the bill would go into effect on Oct. 1, 2021, according to a House summary on the Arizona Legislature's webite.
Typically, only bars with a Series 6 or 7 liquor license (bar or wine bar license) could sell alcohol for off-site consumption, such as beer and wine, in sealed containers. Those licenses are also significantly more expensive than a Series 12 license, commonly referred to as a restaurant license, which does not include the ability to sell to-go alcohol, officials have said.
Last year, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey temporarily relaxed the rules regarding who could and could not sell to-go alcohol in an effort to support restaurants during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic after their dining rooms were ordered to close.
Some bar owners felt that the rule was unfair, arbitrary and put them at a disadvantage since most bars had to remain closed, even after restaurants were later allowed to reopen with reduced capacity. They took the matter to court, claiming Governor Ducey's executive order violated state law, and a judge agreed.
Arizona Rep. Jeff Weninger introduced the measure to the Arizona Legislature, which was heavily supported by the Arizona Restaurant Association, Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, and Arizona Licensed Beverage Association.
"The passage of HB 2773 is a win-win for consumers, who approve of to-go cocktails by an overwhelming margin, and for restaurants and bars, by creating the flexibility needed to respond to changing customer demands,” said Dan Bogert, chief operating officer of the Arizona Restaurant Association, in a statement.
“Supporting cocktails to-go and creating the ability to deliver alcohol along with food orders in a safe and responsible way will play a big role in helping the industry recover from the gravest economic challenge restaurants and bars have faced."
David Delos, president of the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association, a group that was against restaurants having the ability to sell to-go alcohol, said in a statement that "time will tell if this bill's passage is a good thing."
"We worked against it as hard as we could ultimately not knowing how many votes we had before the senate hearing. We brokered a compromise that will protect our members and the value of their liquor licenses and gives them new privileges. Many believe this is the first step to modernizing our liquor laws," he said. "This was something the governor's office and many big restaurants wanted as additional revenue source as they were very successful during the pandemic selling drinks to go. We won’t know the true effects of this bill on public safety for years."