A sign hanging from an upside-down kayak over the bar at Winnie’s Manayunk restaurant still proclaimed, “Cocktails to go. Order here” on Sunday.
Owner Winnie Clowry, who was managing a crowd of customers on the second day of the famously hilly neighborhood’s scaled-back arts festival, had simply forgotten to take it down. She was also hoping that state legislators would come to their senses so she could put it back up.
“I think the cocktails-to-go issue is going to be handled,” Clowry said. “I just feel like somebody in Harrisburg, they have to stop fighting. This is a complete power struggle. I don’t know if anybody else is sick of it, but I am.”
The state House last Thursday approved a bill that would have allowed bars and restaurants to keep selling cocktails to-go. The Senate did not act on the legislation Friday. Supporters said that the move effectively doomed the continuation of cocktails to-go until at least the fall. The Senate is expected to go on summer vacation soon.
Clowry, who has owned her restaurant since 1994, said the extra cocktail sales didn’t make or break her restaurant but they increased takeout revenue. For others in the industry, those sales were “imperative.”
She’ll figure out how to make things work no matter what the legislature decides, but she thinks the cocktails will be back. “I absolutely believe it’s going to happen,” she said. “They have got to support the bar and tavern association of this state.”
Some bar managers on Manayunk’s Main Street were too confused by the state’s shifting signals to comment, but others echoed Clowry’s thoughts. Although crowds for the arts festival were smaller than usual, they said, it still was shaping up to be a strong weekend for them, and many patrons might have enjoyed strolling with a drink.
Marissa Krawciw, general manager of Somo, where cheery mimosas were at nearly every brunch table, has been writing to state senators to convey her unhappiness. She said some people still don’t feel comfortable dining inside restaurants, and to-go drinks provided a “decent amount” of business.
“It definitely is hurting our business and restaurants in general,” she said of the return of the to-go ban. “It was a big revenue booster.”
Restaurants are still catching up after months of pandemic restrictions. “After restaurants lost so much over the last 15 months,” she said, cocktails to-go were a “nice little incentive to generate some money and get profitability.”
Cocktails-to-go were made legal last year to help restaurants and bars stay afloat when they were largely closed because of COVID-19 precautions, but the liquor code provision allowing them was tied to Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus disaster declaration. Lawmakers voted to end that on June 10, leading the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to shut down that sales channel on June 15.
Sean Kurz, owner of Pitchers Pub, called the decision not to renew to-go cocktails absurd. His tavern didn’t sell a lot of them. Its customers like their beers inside. But Kurz worried that the cocktails were a lifeline for other businesses that struggled to keep their doors open. Manayunk is busy now, he said, but it helps him if all the businesses can thrive and draw customers to the community. “You want everybody to do good,” he said.
Madison Vermeulen, 23, and Tim Kutchner, 24, who live in Fairmount, said they liked to-go cocktails — as they took a break from the steamy heat with tall, alcohol-free lemonades.
“I’m a big fan of cocktails to-go,” Vermeulen said. “Big fan.”
Kutchner said he thought the cocktails were a big help to neighborhood businesses and it was a “bummer” that they’re gone. “I’d say we were pretty committed to it year-round,” he said. “It was really popular.”
Amanda Goldberg, 47, who had walked to Manayunk from Merion Station, said she made her drinks at home and wasn’t sure to-go drinks were still necessary. “I think, with the staff shortages, I would prioritize in-person and meal takeout,” she said.
Nina Lee, 68, of Germantown, didn’t order to-go drinks, either, and thinks people would be safer if they drank at home rather than walking around with drinks. She personally prefers to drink at the restaurant. “I want a real glass,” she said.