Rep. Josie Tomkow is joining Sen. Jeff Brandes in the effort to let restaurants continue selling mixed drinks to go even when the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
Tomkow’s bill (HB 329), filed Tuesday, would permit restaurants to sell wine- and liquor-based drinks and malt beverages to go alongside takeout and delivery food orders, an option popularized during the pandemic and backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Brandes filed his version (SB 134) in November.
Unless lawmakers pass a bill enshrining the practice, the last call on cocktails-to-go will come when Florida’s COVID-19 state of emergency expires.
Both Republicans’ bills would take effect July 1.
Based on one of DeSantis’ executive orders early in the pandemic, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation relaxed its alcohol guidelines in an effort to aid businesses struggling amid coronavirus-related shutdowns. Initially, restaurants were permitted only to sell to-go orders, a restriction that caused many businesses to temporarily close and some to go out of business all together. The order was seen as a way to provide restaurants with another possible revenue stream to help absorb the blow.
The bills do not include specific instructions on how restaurants seal drinks to-go. The containers could simply be a plastic lid, Brandes previously told Florida Politics.
Tomkow and Brandes’ bills would remove language pertaining to full meals, including a salad or vegetable, entrée and bread, in order to take home an opened bottle of wine not fully consumed on premise. It also adds language allowing consumers to purchase wine in a sealed container with the purchase of food.
The bills would not apply to bars or establishments whose revenue is derived by less than 51% of food and nonalcoholic drink sales.
The 2021 Legislative Session begins March 2. Brandes’ bill has already been referred to three Senate committees.