Jennifer Bradley’s drinks-to-go bill advances to final panel
Ordering drinks to go could become permanent.

alcohol to go
Lawmakers want to codify a pandemic emergency clearance.

A bill to make the pandemic drinks-to-go greenlight permanent advanced to its final Senate committee after a unanimous vote on Tuesday.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation has allowed restaurants and bars to sell drinks to-go since March, as long as half their revenue comes from food sales. The authorization is temporary and will expire post-pandemic.

However, Fleming Island Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley‘s proposal (SB 148) would “codify the spirit of the current executive order” into law. The bill passed the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on Tuesday.

Its final stop before it is ready for a vote on the Senate floor will be the Rules Committee.

Bradley and others have argued it is likely that the economic and cultural changes caused by the pandemic could foster long-term, even permanent, changes in how restaurants do business.

Mixed drinks were a late addition when DBPR issued its emergency order allowing restaurants to send alcoholic beverages out with to-go food orders. DBPR initially declined to open the door for drinks to-go, but the department and the industry envisioned restaurants needing the high-profit margins they see on drinks such as margaritas.

“My guiding principles as we approach this bill is how can we have our take-out options match and mirror what a restaurant is able to offer in person,” Bradley told the committee. How do we allow our restaurants to continue to serve and meet their customers’ needs in a new environment?”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle see the current policy as a positive trial run for permanent legislation. Gov. Ron DeSantis even threw his support behind the idea in September.

The order, and the bill, requires that restaurants mix drinks on-premises and send them out in tamper-proof sealed containers. But uncertainty about stronger drinks remains.

Polk City Republican Rep. Josie Tomkow is carrying the House version (HB 329). That bill is also at its last committee stop, the House Commerce Committee, after passing the Regulatory Reform Subcommittee unanimously.

Both proposals would require customers to order at least some food with their drinks. Bradley’s version would cap drink sizes at 32-ounce containers.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is strongly supporting the measure, as are Uber and other delivery companies.

“I know the restaurants would appreciate your support, and the entire service industry,” Bradley said.

If approved, the legislation would take effect in July.

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes has also authored legislation allowing alcohol to-go. However, the Senate looks like it has picked Bradley’s bill as its horse for the Session, packaging it with new language in its prior committee stop. Brandes filed his two alcohol-to-go bills (SB 134 and SB 142) the same day as Bradley, but the Senate Regulated Industries Committee has only moved hers.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.



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