Lawmakers say have drink for the road, send new to-go alcohol bill to governor

Published 9:50 pm Friday, March 5, 2021

Take-home cocktails — concocted as pandemic relief for bars and restaurants — would become a permanent feature in Kentucky under a bill that won final approval from lawmakers on Friday.

The state House voted 67-27 to send the measure to Gov. Andy Beshear.

The bill, which previously passed the Senate, would allow restaurants and bars to sell alcohol — including cocktails — in sealed containers for delivery and to-go orders as part of meal purchases.

Carryout cocktails surged in popularity after the coronavirus struck. More than 30 states are considering allowing, extending or making permanent cocktails to-go measures, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

In Kentucky, Beshear issued an executive order allowing alcohol to-go sales to help cushion the financial blow from his coronavirus-related restrictions.

Now the measure headed to his desk would make cocktails to-go a permanent fixture.

“Local restaurants and bars are desperate for a sustained source of revenue, and cocktails to-go provide a critical lifeline,” Jay Hibbard, with the distilled spirits council, said in praising Kentucky lawmakers for passing the bill.

Under the Kentucky measure, an alcohol to-go order would be allowed so long as it’s purchased with a prepared meal. Alcohol sales would be limited to amounts “a reasonable person” would purchase with a meal. The alcohol would have to be transported in a locked glove compartment, the trunk or other places not considered to be in the “passenger area” of a vehicle.

The bill would not allow such alcohol sales in “bulk quantities” and would prohibit alcohol to-go deliveries to areas of Kentucky where alcohol sales are prohibited. While Kentucky is the epicenter of bourbon production, liquor sales are banned in parts of rural Kentucky.

Kentucky’s bourbon industry traces its surging growth in part to the popularity of its products mixed into cocktails. The Kentucky Distillers’ Association praised final passage of the bill.

“Our restaurant, bar and hospitality partners have been decimated by the pandemic and continue to struggle in the recovery,” said Eric Gregory, the association’s president. “They are tremendously important to our signature bourbon and distilled spirits industry.”