by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches its tentacles into communities across the country, it’s no secret that small businesses have been hit hard. From house cleaners, to boutique grocers, to clothing stores, nearly every line of business has felt the impact. But the emphasis on social distancing and self-quarantining has been especially devastating for gathering-oriented businesses that are explicitly premised upon people congregating together.
This means that our nation’s craft beverage producers and sellers (breweries, distilleries, restaurants, and bars) are feeling extra pain. In fact, some breweries have already made the decision to permanently close as a result of the pandemic. For those that are trying to survive, most have switched over to full-time, take-out, and delivery service of their booze.
The problem? Many locales unduly and severely restrict or prohibit alcohol delivery and shipment. Now, COVID-19 is demonstrating in vivid form that it’s time to revisit and repeal these rules. …
… To their credit, liquor regulators in New York (as well as Texas and D.C.) have responded by temporarily waiving and redefining their rules to allow restaurants to serve alcoholic drinks in a to-go or delivery format. Unfortunately, most of these locales still require food to be part of any takeout order, meaning that cocktail bars or wine bars are unable to benefit from the change. While this focus on restaurants and bars is a step in the right direction, few governments have changed their rules regarding alcohol shipments or on-demand delivery directly from producers or liquor stores.