Legislative Testimony for LB72: Make To-Go Mixed Drinks Permanent
Good morning, Chairman Briese and members of the General Affairs Committee. My name is Nicole Fox, and I am Director of Government Relations for the Platte Institute. I am here today to testify in support of LB72.
The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a December 2020 press conference, Zoe Olson with Nebraska’s Restaurant Association said overall restaurant sales across Nebraska were down 30% to 50%.[i]
I don’t think there is a person in this room that has not experienced a favorite restaurant or bar establishment go out of business. If many of you are like me, I am guessing you have had conversations with restaurant or bar owners or their employees and learned of the measures they have implemented in attempts to stay afloat – cutting hours of operation, laying off employees, scaling back their menus to reduce inventory, selling pantry staples.
In response to the implementation of directed health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, many states, including Nebraska allowed restaurants and bars to sell cocktails and/or spirits to-go to generate more revenue.
Many restaurants and bars used the opportunity to be creative. Some came up with sealed adult “juice” pouches or sold their mixed drinks in sealed mason jars. Some sold individual drinks, while others recognized that consumers liked the idea of buying “quarts to-go.” Some came up with some really good-sounding cocktails to market, in addition to their usual stand-bys. Innovative ideas like these have been helpful in mitigating some of the economic effects of COVID-19.
Currently, more than 30 states plus the District of Columbia are allowing restaurants and/or bars to sell cocktails to-go, bottled spirits to-go, or both. Iowa (House File 2540) and Ohio (HB669) both passed legislation in 2020 to allow the sale of to-go cocktails on a permanent basis, and the Platte Institute is excited to hear there is interest in doing so in Nebraska too.[ii],[iii]
Thirteen states have introduced legislation to make the sale of cocktails-to-go permanent in 2021, and there may be more to come. The 13 states are: Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia.
LB72 will allow the holder of a Class C liquor license to sell a mixed drink or cocktail to a person 21 years of age or older for consumption off the premises. A Class I liquor may sell a mixed drink or cocktail to a person 21 years of age or older for consumption off the premises with a food purchase.
While the Platte Institute supports this bill in general, I do offer a couple of suggestions.
The first being to not impose onerous packaging requirements. Requiring sealed packaging is reasonable, but it is important to make sure that the required packaging is not so costly, it significantly reduces profits.
Second, as a consumer, I know I would be concerned about beverages tipping over and leaking, and if I could, I would prefer to be able to have them where I could at least put them on the floor of my vehicle or have a passenger hold them if someone was with me.
Thank you, Sen. Geist, for introducing a bill to permanently allow cocktails to-go in efforts to provide Nebraska’s restaurant and bar establishments an avenue to generate additional revenue for their businesses.
I ask the committee to advance LB72 to General File.