Coronavirus prompts looser alcohol laws as restaurants fight to survive

Many states are extending to-go drink orders

States are loosening alcohol laws as restaurants fight to say in business.

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The new coronavirus shifted how the food and drink industry works, forcing many companies to cut workers or collapse under COVID-19 shutdowns while Americans stay inside.

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In states like Michigan, officials are countering less eat-in traffic with alcohol to go. The Michigan Legislature on Wednesday approved HB 5811, an order that would allow restaurants and bars to sell to-go drinks in sealed containers. The measure was sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“By approving cocktails to-go, the legislature is throwing a much-needed economic lifeline to Michigan restaurants and bars,” David Wojnar, vice president of state government relations for the Washington, D.C.-based Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said in a statement.

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Under that legislation, Michigan bars and restaurants would be able to sell cocktails to-go until December 2025. The move comes at the same time other states are taking similar measures.

Delaware, for example, recently approved an extension on to-go drinks until March 2021. Chicago’s city council is allowing the same until June 2021, and Iowa lawmakers passed an ordinance making the sale of cocktails to-go from restaurants, bars and distilleries permanent.

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Employees prepare a drink at CraftWay Kitchen in Plano, Texas, (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez).

There are more than 30 states plus Washington, D.C., now allowing venues to sell drinks to-go, bottled spirits, or both, highlighting the toll the COVID-19 outbreak has brought on sales.

Almost 80 percent of firms in the accommodation and food services industry are seeing negative effects of the pandemic, U.S. Census data points out. The unemployment rate for Food Services and Drinking Places was 32 percent in May, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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