Senators have passed a bill to enshrine the drinks-to-go practice in state law.
Sen. Jennifer Bradley‘s proposal (SB 148) would codify the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s order that has allowed certain restaurant and bar patrons to take their orders on the road since March. The need to hand the hospitality industry to-go drink powers arose during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the order will expire when the public health emergency does.
The Senate voted 38-2 on Wednesday to send the proposal to the House. Democratic Sens. Lauren Book and Audrey Gibson cast the dissenting votes.
Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, 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.
The order, and the bill, requires that restaurants mix drinks on-premises and send them out in tamper-proof sealed containers. Patrons could also order drinks with delivery orders.
An amendment accepted on the Senate floor would require businesses to confirm that those delivering drinks are at least 21 years old.
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.
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.
Uber has also backed the measure since the beginning.
“On behalf of Uber, we thank State Sen. Jennifer Bradley and the Florida Senate for their steadfast support of Florida’s restaurant and delivery industry,” said Uber’s senior manager of public affairs, Javi Correoso. “We look forward to continuing our work in the House of Representatives to ensure the proven benefits of alcohol delivery are widely recognized and the service is protected by law.”
Polk City Republican Rep. Josie Tomkow is carrying the House version (HB 329). That bill is ready for consideration in the House, but the House could take up Bradley’s bill instead.