House passes drinks-to-go bill, orders another round for the Senate
Ordering drinks to go could become permanent.

alcohol to go
'Cheers, members!'

The House has passed its version of a bill to permanently enshrine the pandemic-inspired drinks-to-go bill, kicking the legislation back to the Senate.

By a nearly unanimous vote, the House approved the measure (SB 148). But because members amended it on Tuesday to include parts of Rep. Josie Tomkow‘s bill, the bill must go back to the Senate in the hopes of its final legislative approval.

Bill sponsor Jennifer 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.

If it becomes law, the bill would take effect in July.

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.

Jacksonville Republican Rep. Clay Yarborough cast the lone dissenting vote during the 115-1 decision on Wednesday. He was also the lone nay vote for a bill to ease regulations on craft distilleries.

Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna V. Eskamani thanked Tomkow for spearheading the effort, including with her own measure (HB 329).

“For the small businesses in my district, one of the ways they survived was being able to have the alcohol-to-go option,” Eskamani said.

Tomkow herself had little to say before the bill’s passage.

“Cheers, members!”

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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