Cocktails

(The Center Square) – The same day public health officials announced an easing of the last COVID-19 restrictions, state lawmakers moved a bill that would make at least one pandemic rule permanent: takeout cocktails.

The House Liquor Control Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to advance a proposal that would allow bars and restaurants to sell as much as 64 ounces of cocktails to-go, extending the popular policy in perpetuity as the hospitality industry climbs out of a deep pandemic-induced economic slump. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated Pennsylvania’s hospitality businesses, and it will take years for them to fully recover,” said David Wojnar, senior vice president and head of state public policy for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. “Cocktails to-go has proven to be a vital part of survival during COVID-19 for Pennsylvania businesses, and making this measure permanent will only provide increased stability in the future.

The committee also amended the bill to prevent the sales in grocery stores, department stores and convenience stores. 

The proposal, House Bill 1154, comes one year after Gov. Tom Wolf signed a measure that authorized the sales as a “lifeline” to struggling bars and restaurants that lacked few revenue streams amid widespread shut downs.

More than 30 other states adopted similar policies throughout 2020, according to the council, and a dozen more, including Pennsylvania, are moving legislation that makes it permanent. 

The Independent Fiscal Office said last month that the hospitality and leisure sector experienced a disproportionate amount of job loss throughout the pandemic as the administration’s mitigation measures targeted their operations as sources of community spread.

IFO Executive Director Matthew Knittel said workforce for the sector declined 26.3% over the last year, compared to 5.4% across all other industries. Revenues likewise plummeted 55.1% for the sector, compared to just 32.6% for all others.

HB 1154 now moves to the full House for consideration.

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania's General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.