The House is prepped to vote on a bill to enshrine the drinks-to-go practice in state law.
The Senate has already passed that measure (SB 148), but if the House passes it as amended, as is expected Wednesday, the bill will go back to the Senate. The Senate will also be in session Wednesday and could consider the amendment.
With no debate, House members approved an amendment Tuesday to bring Sen. Jennifer Bradley‘s bill in line with Rep. Josie Tomkow‘s bill (HB 329).
Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, and Tomkow, a Polk City Republican 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 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 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.
Mixed drinks were a late addition when the Department of Business and Professional Regulation 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.
The Senate voted 38-2 last week to send the proposal to the House. Democratic Sens. Lauren Book and Audrey Gibson cast the dissenting votes.
If it becomes law, the bill would take effect in July.