ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Lawmakers are proposing a bill that would make to-go cocktails a permanent option in the Sunshine state.
What You Need To Know
- Lawmakers are proposing a bill to make to-go cocktails a permanent option in Florida
- They were approved as a temporary change in the spring to help businesses during closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
- The Orange County Sheriff's Office said deputies have not dealth with any issues directly tied to to-go cocktails
Gov. Ron DeSantis initially approved the temporary change back in the spring as a way to help restaurants and bars continue sales despite closures. Now, small businesses are hopeful this legislation can help their bottom line if it’s approved.
“We are extremely struggling,” said Andrea C. Zimmerman, co-owner of The Cloak & Blaster, a bar and restaurant in Orlando.
The past nine months have been tough for the owners of The Cloak & Blaster. For Zimmerman, she said keeping her bar going through a pandemic has felt like an avalanche.
“It’s just piling on and on and it’s been rough,” she said.
Her business relies heavily on events and crowds for board games at the bar and restaurant, and that all stopped in March, Zimmerman said.
When to-go cocktails were allowed by the state, it did help at first.
“We decided to make adult Capri suns, essentially, in these sealable bags and I remember the first week we went through it, and this is a big deal for us a little paltry place, we went through 100 bags," she said. "We ran out that week, it was insane."
But those initial sales fell off, and what started as 100 bags a week dropped to about five a week now.
Florida lawmakers are now considering a proposal to make to-go cocktail sales a permanent change. Zimmerman said that could help them get by and make it through this tough time.
Changes to to-go cocktail rules are something craft distilleries want to be included in this time around.
“But we still can’t sell cocktails to our own patrons," said Andrew Asher, co-founder of Winter Park Distilling and the Bear and the Peacock Brewery. "We can give away free samples but that’s the limit under the law right now”
Asher's brewery can sell to-go beers, known as crowlers, but because of state rules, they can't sell craft cocktails at their distillery next door. It's something Asher believes would be very popular and would allow customers to try out new spirits and cocktails, while pushing state laws forward.
“I’m very excited for anything that allows our customers to have more exposure to our product," he said. "That’s really the key to all this."
For Zimmerman, she said cocktails to-go aren’t a big boost, but are still helpful for her business, and customers would like to see it continue safely.
“Where you can order a cocktail from a talented bartender, get it home and have that creation from the safety of your home without effecting other people or feeling nervous yourself, that’s great," she said. "Why wouldn’t we pass something like that?
"Now, is it going to be a huge boon to my business? Probably not."
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said they have not dealt with any issues specifically with to-go cocktail changes in recent months.
They say those partaking in to-go cocktails, though, need to be mindful of the dangers of driving under the influence and they will continue to enforce drunk driving laws.