Wolf signs bill permitting cocktails to-go, effective immediately

UPDATED: May 22, 1:25 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill on Thursday allowing licensed bars, restaurants and hotels to sell to-go cocktails, effective immediately. 

The law applies to those businesses that have lost 25% of average monthly total sales during the coronavirus crisis.

The governor said last week he was undecided about the bill, though it received overwhelming bipartisan support from the state House and Senate weeks ago. Wolf confirmed on Tuesday he planned to sign it.

“This new temporary rule creates more business for bars and restaurants when they need it, helps to meet customer demand and supports social distancing,” said the governor in a statement. “As we approach the holiday weekend, I encourage all Pennsylvanians to remember to drink responsibly.”

The beverages must be sold in sealed containers with a lid or cap — no less than 4 ounces, no more than 64 ounces. Containers with openings for straws must be covered with an additional seal before the sale.

To-go mixed drinks cannot be sold after 11 p.m. Open container laws still apply.

Within 60 days, bars and restaurants will need to use a scanning device to check the ID of any customer who appears to be under 35.

More rules are outlined by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board here.

Although the bill just became law, some bars and restaurants have already been selling to-go drinks.

Others anxiously awaited the law to go into effect, like Joe Monnich. The chef owns several restaurants, including The Bercy in Ardmore, Stove and Tap in Malvern and Lansdale, and Al Pastor in Exton.

“Since the pandemic started for our restaurant group, we have been relying solely on takeout food,” he said. “The communities of all of our restaurants have been super supportive of us and buying food, but sales are still down tremendously. We are looking at 85% across the board. 

“To be able to sell to-go mixed drinks really just helps our sales.”

Monnich wished the bill was signed earlier, but he’s grateful for the additional revenue stream.

Kathy Kearney, owner of John Henry's Pub in Ardmore, said she’s also anticipating the extra revenue.

“We are so excited to have this lifeline, which is so necessary right now,” she said. “We are open for takeout and I’m so appreciative of our regular customers who are supporting us, but it’s just not enough to pay the bills and bring back employees.

“Even this little thing is going to make such a difference to us.”

The temporary rule expires once the COVID-19 crisis is over and a business reaches 60% capacity, according to the governor’s office.

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KYW Newsradio's Rachel Kurland and John McDevitt contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: This story was edited on May 22 to reflect that food is not required to purchase to-go mixed drinks, as previously reported.