To-Go Cocktails Now Legal in Tucson
Over this past year, both local and state governments have made special exceptions and tweaked old laws to help out the food and drink industry. Because for the majority of 2020 restaurants were not allowed to provide in-person dining, and even when patio and interior dining became an option restaurants were not allowed past minimum capacity. However, in order to help with the significant loss of this revenue one particular emergency law that went into effect was a “to-go” cocktail law. This law made it possible for establishments, especially bars without any food menu, to sell cocktails to patrons in sealed containers.
Even with the sealed containers, many bars simply avoided opening altogether, as selling nothing but to-go cocktails didn’t make financial sense as it would have meant either an owner or staff member would need to remain present to sell maybe just a handful of drinks. In reality, the law primarily helped restaurants that were already servicing the in-person guests. However, a brand new law, that was just signed by Governor Doug Ducey, will now help both restaurants and bars alike here in greater Tucson.
This past Friday, Ducey signed law H.B. 2773. This law approves all “to-go” cocktails into law for bars and restaurants in the area. Essentially, this law takes the emergency approved law from earlier and makes it permanent. However, there will be some downtime between the emergency law and when H.B. 2773 goes into effect. This means current bars and restaurants in Tucson will not be allowed to take advantage of this law until October 1 of 2021.
It is important to point out that now all alcohol license holders in the area will be allowed to sell to-go cocktails though. For the time being, it is only for very specific license holders. Bars, which are businesses that make the majority of income off of the sale of alcohol, hold a series 6 license. These establishments will be able to take advantage of the new law. Other bars that specialize in beer and wine (as in a wine bar that doesn’t sell hard liquor) hold a series 7 license and will also qualify as a business capable of selling the to-go cocktails and drinks when the law takes effect October 1.
However, these laws do not cover restaurants with an alcohol license. Restaurants with a liquor license will need to apply for a lease permit from the state’s Department of Liquor Licenses and Control in order to sell the to-go spirits. The lease will last through the end of 2025, then, beginning in January 2026, the restaurants will then be able to apply for a full permit. Those restaurants that do apply and are granted the permit for to-go cocktails will need to stop selling these drinks when their kitchens close. This means, if a restaurant traditionally closes its kitchen at 10 PM but continues selling alcohol until midnight, they will not be allowed to sell to-go drinks after 10 PM.
The ability for restaurants to sell to-go cocktails was a major debate for bars during the pandemic. This is because alcohol-only establishments must pay more for their licenses, so they did not believe it to be fair for other establishments that were already making money off of food sales during the pandemic, should also be able to make money off of to-go cocktail orders while paying less to the state than the bars that, in reality, were in greater need of financial help.
So before you go to your favorite joint and order yourself a to-go margarita, these restaurants will need to apply for the right to lease a permit. This will help increase taxable revenue the state and city of Tucson brings in and will also help the local food and drink industry possibly earn more money at the same time.