In light of COVID-19, economic recession, social unrest and the fact that fans literally cannot get a seat inside Fenway Park this season, the adults among us who drink probably could use a cocktail. Massachusetts lawmakers aren’t exactly buying, of course, but they’ve expanded our choices.
We’ll raise our glasses, then, to state Sen. Diana DiZoglio for her persistence in allowing restaurants in these times of the coronavirus to sell cocktails on take-out menus. The state relaxed its rules on beer and wine sales months ago. Mixed drinks weren’t included, though some crafty restaurateurs were selling mixers for popular concoctions to which patrons could add their own spirits.
All of this changed last week, when the state House and Senate came to terms on a bill, which Gov. Charlie Baker signed Monday. There are limits. Cocktails sold via take-out and delivery must be sealed in containers — hey, this isn’t New Orleans — no more than 64 ounces at a time. Otherwise it’s open season on Manhattans, margaritas and martinis, provided that you’re of legal drinking age.
Beneficiaries of the bill aren’t so much people looking for a libation, they are the restaurants scrambling to whip up survival plans without benefit of full dining rooms. And this won’t be a cure-all, to be sure. Several owners of small restaurants meeting with lawmakers estimated they could make a couple hundred dollars a night serving drinks with take-out and delivery orders.
That’s real money, all the same. DiZoglio noted in a statement it’s enough to bring in thousands of dollars a month, which hopefully can help cover rent and utilities.
Selling alcohol outside the confines of enclosed restaurants or bars, and under the watchful eyes of trained wait staff and bartenders, isn’t ideal. Nor is this meant to be a forever arrangement. Drinks-to-go will expire when the state’s COVID-19 emergency ends, or on Feb. 28 of next year, whichever comes first.
And at day’s end, if restaurants survive the struggles created by public health precautions, it won’t be because they’ve slightly expanded their bar menu. It will be because patrons make a point of supporting them, whether by ordering take-out or taking advantage of the outdoor dining and limited indoor seating that is available.
This bill helps the cause, but we should all make a point of placing our orders, regardless of whether we’re having a cocktail.