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Cocktails to-go: West Virginia’s new alcohol laws provide more options for a struggling industry

West Virginia Headlines

MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (WTRF) – Cocktails to-go became a unique concept during the COVID lockdowns, but eateries opening and more people coming back to dine at their favorite tables doesn’t mean these take out options are going away. 

It’s no secret some of our favorite bars and restaurants to grab a bite and a drink struggled the past year plus. West Virginia knew that, which is why early in the pandemic Governor Jim Justice allowed to-go beer and wine sales for customers who purchased food.

Now, the state’s about to have more options for enjoying a cocktail with your favorite meal at home if you still don’t want to sit in a restaurant because of House Bill 2025.

In the wake of the pandemic uh there was a definite need in that industry for new, innovative ways to help those businesses viable. So, we were very proactive and worked with different types of ABC licenses and looked at ways they could serve their customers that they could be safe.

Gig Robinson, Spokesman, West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration

With Ohio being so close to us we have had many phone calls asking if we were allowed to do alcohol sales because Ohio was doing alcohol sales and unfortunately with our liquor laws in West Virginia we were not allowed to do that or offer that, so that’s when we decided to come up with the pre mix.

Eddie Caruth, Manager, El Gran Patron

Restaurants like El Gran Patron in Moundsville did the best they could with creative options for customers, like margaritas they could add alcohol to at home, but even that wasn’t enough to make up for all the lost business.

The fact that it’s permanent gives the small business owner some sort of certainty and they can start building their business models around that and we have no doubt the consumer will like that as well.

David Wojnar, Senior VP and Head of State Public Policy, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States

Wojnar said West Virginia is the seventh state nationwide to make the pandemic alcohol laws permanent. Many states have just opted to extend the special orders.

The new legislation signed by Governor Justice gives more options with the proper licenses.

According to the WVABCA they include:

  • Curbside in-person or in-vehicle pickup, or third party delivery of sealed beer and beer growlers, sealed wine and wine growlers, and sealed craft cocktail growlers when a licensee is appropriately licensed
  • Sealed liquor drinks in craft cocktail growlers for food or meal orders to go (no person who has consumed alcohol can purchase a to-go order with a craft cocktail growler)
  • 6:00 am sales for certain Class A on-premises and Class B off-premises licensees
  • Covid-19 fee reduction for Private Clubs
  • Additional outdoor dining and street dining options for beer, wine and liquor, the emphasis is on “dining”
  • Limited beer direct shipping for brewers;
  • Limited direct shipping for distilleries;
  • Hard Cider Tax Reduction and growlers;
  • New private club licenses types for private club bars, private club restaurants, private caterers, private farmers’ markets, private wedding venues or barns, private tennis clubs, private professional sport stadiums, private multi-sport complexes, one day charitable auctions, multi-vendor fairs and festivals and etc.

What we saw here is during the summer months in particular of the pandemic that the outside dining, outside activities, we really streamlined the process. If everything was brought to us we could turn around a temporary permit the next day actually, so that became very popular. 

Gig Robinson, Spokesman, West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration

The bill faced criticism as it went through the passage process, but there are safety measures in place to make sure the new options don’t encourage irresponsible drinking. 

If you look at the bill, it’s making sure they’re in sealed containers. There’s a lot of responsible practices embedded into the legislation. What we see across the country with restaurant operators and consumers is that they want to utilize this uh not mess it up and by in large bartenders and restaurant owners they’ve struggled so much the last thing they want to do is mess it up.

David Wojnar, Senior VP and Head of State Public Policy, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States

With just days until the laws change, restaurants are taking steps to make sure they can expand their service. 

Anything that our liquor laws allow us to do we will offer that.

Eddie Caruth, Manager, El Gran Patron

The new license and delivery options go into place on Monday, May 10. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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