When bars and restaurants closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many state and local governments suspended alcohol regulations to allow customers to order takeout premixed cocktails and drink in newly expanded outdoor dining areas. Now that the end of the pandemic is in sight, hopefully, there’s a battle brewing over whether to make those changes permanent, The Wall Street Journal reports.
“Before the pandemic, just a few places allowed bars and restaurants to sell to-go cocktails, including a handful of local areas such as New Orleans,” the Journal reports. “Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia passed emergency orders greenlighting it during the pandemic,” and Washington, D.C, “Wisconsin, Kentucky, Ohio, and Iowa have already made such allowances permanent, while other states extended permission into next year.”
Opposition to such moves is coming from beer distributors, liquor and convenience stores, and grocers’ associations, as well as some city governments who argue that takeout cocktails could encourage underage drinking and drunk driving. Some municipalities and neighborhoods are also wary about ceding street parking and sidewalks to newly expanded outdoor dining.
In California, state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) is collaborating with a GOP lawmaker to permanently suspend liquor laws that prohibited drinking in outdoor food parks and sidewalk extensions. Modernizing liquor laws, some of which date back 100 years, is a longterm interest for Wiener. “The pandemic is a terrible thing in all respects, but it made us try out new things at a very rapid pace. And the sky didn’t fall,” he told the Journal. “There are more open minds among lawmakers than there otherwise would be.”
Lawmakers loosened more than just alcohol regulations during the pandemic, of course — Colorado has already made permanent its temporary COVID-19 allowance for drive-through and walk-up marijuana sales, and it’s considering doing the same for online weed sales, the Journal notes. You can read more about the battles over recreational substance regulations, and also telemedicine and cross-border health care, at The Wall Street Journal.