If you’ve been enjoying a to-go margarita with your Mexican takeout, you’re in luck.
On Thursday, the Delaware Legislature passed House Bill 1, allowing Delaware restaurants to sell carryout alcohol until March 31, 2022.
The bill, which is awaiting Gov. John Carney’s signature, also addresses extended outdoor dining, which lets restaurants enlarge their alfresco footprint where permitted.
The offerings originated during the pandemic to help the heavily impacted hospitality industry. Without HB1, both services would expire on March 31, 2021.
“We’re grateful for this,” said Carrie Leishman, CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association. “The consumer and the industry like it.”
The association worked with Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf (D) on the bill.
“He knew it was going to sunset, and he championed it for the industry,” Leishman said.
Over the past year, outdoor dining and carryout beverages were “a lifeline” for restaurants, which had limited indoor capacity, she noted.
David Dietz, owner of BBC Tavern in Greenville, agreed.
“It is a recognition that measures need to be taken to address the challenges the industry has faced this past year,” he said.
In 2020, restaurants began erecting tables on sidewalks, in parking lots and parking spaces. Klondike Kate’s in downtown Newark used half of an alleyway for tables-for-two.
Maria Fraser, owner of The Café on 26 in Bethany Beach, said extended outdoor dining saved her business. Even with the relief loans, she would have closed without the extra income it provided.
Selling alcohol to go has also been a boon. Cocktails have been bestsellers over beer and wine, said Chuck Lewis, manager of Buckley’s Tavern in Centreville.
“We have a customer who orders takeout from us and gets a Brandied Cherry Manhattan to-go to enjoy after dinner, so he doesn’t have to worry about drinking and driving,” Lewis said.
At Home Grown Café, carryout cocktails do well, said owner Sasha Aber. Many people don’t keep the six necessary ingredients for an elaborate libation at home.
Aber would like to see the offering become permanent.
“We are serving it in a safe and regulated way,” she said. “It’s really no different than getting it in a liquor store.”
To be sure, canned pre-mixed cocktails available at liquor stores are all the rage.
Over the past year, Klondike Kate’s saw an increasing demand for pouches of pre-made mixed drinks.
“We are happy to-go alcohol sales are being extended,” said owner Gianmarco Martuscelli. At his other Newark restaurant, La Casa Pasta, guests order red wine to complement their Italian takeout.
Carryout sales also benefit breweries that have a taproom model.
“We are proud that the Delaware legislature is being proactive and doing what it can to help the state’s breweries,” said Eric Williams, co-founder of Mispillion River Brewing in Milford. “Buy local!”
The bill is designed to give restaurants more time to recover. But many need longer.
“It will take more than one year to recover the hundreds of thousands lost, let alone pay off the loans,” Fraser said. “We need to extend it to 2025.”