For the next few years, selling cocktails to-go will be allowable in California.
Governor Newsom approved Senate Bill (SB) 389 on October 8, proposed by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), allowing establishments that already sell alcohol to offer premade cocktails for pick up through December 31, 2026.
- The establishment must sell food on its premises
- Beverages must be sold in a sealable container
- Wine can only be sold in single-serve containers
- To-go cocktails cannot have more than 4.5 ounces of distilled spirits per serving
- Alcoholic beverages must be transported in the trunk or “another area of the vehicle not normally occupied by the driver or passengers”
- Public consumption is still not permitted
“The ability to include alcoholic drinks with to-go orders has been helpful for many restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said senator Dodd. “Even as the state opens up, there are still a large number of consumers who prefer to get their cocktails delivered rather than having to gather in an enclosed space. Nothing in this bill changes any laws related to drinking and driving or drinking in public, nor does the bill force restaurant to sell drinks to go. This bill simply provides an opportunity.”
Alcohol Justice, one of the opposers of the bill, argued, “cocktails-to-go are a bad idea that benefit the licensee’s bottom line while threatening public health and safety. Cocktails-to-go have been wisely prohibited since the link to death and injury from drinking and driving became evident… It will always be a bad idea and should never become permanent.”
On the other hand, the California Downtown Association (CDA) argued, “The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated small businesses—particularly in the hospitality industry—throughout the state at an alarming rate… Small businesses are a critical part of the fabric of our state because of their impact on our economy, the services they provide, and the number of workers they employ… This bill will provide a critical lifeline for many small businesses as the state fully reopens for business and tourism.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 16 other states—and Washington D.C.—have passed legislation permanently allowing cocktails to be sold for takeout.