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Relaxing liquor laws could rescue restaurants

Bars and some restaurants are still shut down, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t drinking. Many states are loosening liquor laws for restaurants to give them a financial boost, and lawmakers, including Florida’s, are debating if these relaxed laws should remain in place.

Florida’s law in particular allows for customers to get alcohol to-go or have it delivered from restaurants. Gov. Ron DeSantis said this week that he’s in favor of letting that law become permanent, a move that would be welcome by restaurants and consumers alike.

Cantina Laredo manager Joe Larenza said 50 percent of orders at the Fort Myers restaurant now include alcohol.

“It’s been fantastic actually. We were able to sell margaritas by the gallon, sangria by the gallon. We’re doing half gallons and gallons,” he said.

It has been a much-needed new revenue stream at a time when restaurants are hurting.

“I allowed them to deliver alcohol. I think I’m going to try and keep that going, have the legislature change the law on that,” DeSantis said.

WINK News asked state lawmakers from both parties whether they would support that change.

“Obviously we are going to have and continue to have strong drunk driving laws, but if it’s helping restaurants and it’s helping people get back on their feet after this viral pandemic, we need to be doing that,” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples).

“I think we may see that this may be a good thing,” said Rep. Michael Grieco (D-Miami Beach).

A good thing, but not as simple as it sounds.

“We’ve dealt with alcohol laws in the past. They are very typically very difficult legislative changes to be very frank,” said Rep. Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral).

“What we don’t do though is sell single drinks,” Valenza said. “We don’t want people to get in the car for drinking and driving. We sell in bulk … we pack it up and lid box pretty good.”

DeSantis’ executive order states that drinks cannot be opened in the car and must be out of the driver’s reach, as required by Florida’s open-container law.

The order allowing alcohol delivery and to-go sales will expire when DeSantis lifts his COVID-19 state of emergency.

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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