With Pennsylvania bars and dining rooms shut down during the coronavirus lockdown, some enterprising owners have begun offering mixed drinks to go.
Although legislation to allow this practice temporarily is pending in Harrisburg, and other states have loosened their laws recently, it is against the law in Pennsylvania. This includes mimosas from fancy brunch spots and margaritas from corner bars. Sealed wine bottles and canned and bottled beers are allowed if the business is licensed to sell them.
The State Police has issued three warnings to bars and restaurants found to be selling cocktails, said Brent Miller, a spokesperson for the department, which enforces the regulations. The establishments weren’t in the Philadelphia area, and police declined to specify them. Fines for violations of the liquor code typically start at $500.
Bar owners, contending that they’re being kicked while down, are clamoring for the right to sell drinks, whether packaged in “kits” or sold out the door in plastic containers and bags. Alcohol accounts for more than a quarter of many restaurants’ revenue, and could spell the success or failure of restaurants that had to switch on a dime to delivery and takeout.
A bill amending the liquor code to allow cocktail sales passed the House last month and has moved to the Senate, which reconvenes Monday.
The legislation is intended as temporary, covering only the COVID-19 disaster emergency and mitigation period after the termination of the disaster emergency in which a licensee is operating at less than 60% capacity. Mixed drinks are defined as a sealed container of no greater than 64 ounces. A lid with sipping holes or opening for straws must be capped with an additional seal. Sales must be completed by 11 p.m.