Nebraska state senators should make to-go cocktail rule permanent

Nebraska state senators should make to-go cocktail rule permanent

The service industry makes up a large part of Nebraska’s economy, and as noted in a previous policy brief, was heavily impacted by COVID-19.

During the early months of the COVID pandemic, both restaurants and bars suffered significant revenue losses. While Gov. Ricketts did not completely shut down the state, the Directed Health Measures (DHM’s) put in place forced them to limit their operations significantly. Many bar and restaurant employees found themselves out of work.

Acknowledging the impact of these limited operations, Gov. Ricketts issued an executive order allowing for the sale of to-go mixed drinks during the state of emergency. This allowed bars the option to at least remain open and bring in some revenue, and it allowed restaurants that were limited to just take-out orders to supplement their revenue.

As DHMs were gradually relaxed, bars and restaurants were able to serve more customers and increase the revenue they generated, but neither has been able to return to full customer capacity and pre-pandemic revenue levels.

Despite the state loosening its DHMs, some individuals are hesitant to go to restaurants and bars for table service because of their general apprehension about contracting COVID.

And for those businesses that have outdoor patio seating, the summer months provided more space and a means to serve more customers, but as Nebraska’s weather turns colder, this option will be limited.

Last week, the Platte Institute hosted its annual Legislative Summit virtually. One of the sessions focused on discussing some of the regulatory burden that was rolled back temporarily. During that session, Sens. Suzanne Geist and Anna Wishart discussed their interest in allowing bars and restaurants the option to sell to-go mixed drinks permanently. This interest was sparked by discussions with bar and restaurant owners in their respective districts.

Iowa and Ohio both passed legislation this summer to allow the sale of to-go mixed drinks on a permanent basis, and the Platte Institute is excited to hear there is interest in following in their footsteps, as we anticipate more states will likely follow suit.

This approach is good news for Nebraska businesses and diners. Not only will this help with bar and restaurant revenue, but it also provides more choices for consumers and helps retain jobs.

The Platte Institute looks forward to working with senators in the 2021 session to help businesses in the service industry generate more revenue and hopefully prevent them from permanently closing their doors.

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