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Arizona Governor Doug Ducey OKs to-go cocktails for Arizona restaurants: What that means for diners

Gin and Reel Cocktail
Posted at 12:38 PM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 15:44:22-04

PHOENIX — Arizona diners will eventually be allowed to order a cocktail or two with their takeout order -- or have some delivered -- from their favorite restaurant.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed H.B. 2773 into law on Friday, which updates current law and allows bars, liquor stores, and restaurants the ability to serve to-go alcohol, including beer, wine, and cocktails.

The Arizona Legislature passed the bill with bipartisan support last week.

But, don't rush the mobile orders just yet; the law itself does not go into effect until at least Oct. 1 and there are still some details and processes that need to be figured out.

Under the law:

  • Restaurants will eventually be allowed to apply for a lease permit 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 to fulfill those orders. It's unclear how much that will cost or how that process will be handled.
  • Through Dec. 31, 2025, restaurants will have to "lease" that privilege from another bar with a liquor license. Beginning Jan. 1, 2026, restaurants will be able to apply for that permit directly through the Department of Liquor.
  • Bars will be allowed to sell to-go cocktails. They already had the ability to serve to-go beer, growlers, 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.
  • The leases will be available for renewal each year.

The law also requires that alcohol only be sold to those who are of legal age and that anyone selling or delivering alcohol go through a training program. It also states that if a third-party contractor violates the law, that violation cannot be held against the restaurant.

The law's signing is a win for restaurant owners, who said to-go cocktails helped boost sales and sustain them through the pandemic when dining rooms were closed or limited, and for restaurant-goers who liked the ability to order an alcoholic drink to-go.

“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."

Some bar owners, however, will likely be unhappy as they felt to-go alcohol was a privilege they paid for with their liquor license (series 6 and 7), which is significantly more expensive than a traditional restaurant license, commonly referred to as a series 12 license.

Last year in an effort to help restaurants during the pandemic, Gov. Ducey relaxed rules around the enforcement of to-go cocktails, specifically for restaurants. A group of Arizona bar owners sued the Governor's Office alleging he violated state law.

A judge agreed and restaurants had to immediately stop selling to-go cocktails.

Arizona Rep. Weninger then introduced a bill with the support of the Arizona Restaurant Association, Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, and other associations.

"House Bill 2773 will help bars, liquor stores and restaurants grow, and it will attract new businesses to our state. This is a major win for Arizona’s food and beverage industry, and I thank Governor Ducey for signing this legislation," Rep. Weninger said in a statement.

Last week, after the bill was passed, Dave Delos, president of the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association, who opposed the legislation, 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," he said.