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Bipartisan bill seeks to extend to-go alcohol services

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Derek Draplin | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – A bipartisan bill that was recently introduced in the Colorado Senate would allow restaurants and pubs in the state to continue offering alcohol for takeout and delivery services. 

Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order in March that allowed restaurants and bars to offer to-go alcoholic beverages beginning March 20, after food establishments were required to close dining because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the order has been extended through the end of June.

Sens. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, and Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Reps. Colin Larson, R-Littleton, and Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, last week introduced Senate Bill 20-213, which would extend a similar policy for certain food establishments with liquor licenses.

Under the legislation, licensed businesses ranging from taverns, brew pubs, restaurants, vintners, distilleries, and clubs would be permitted to sell sealed alcoholic beverages for off-premise consumption. The legislation requires any alcoholic beverage sold for to-go or delivery to be in a sealed container that’s 750 milliliters or smaller.

The bill would sunset on July 1, 2022.

Colorado is one of many states considering extending emergency orders regarding alcohol. New York, Michigan, Ohio and Oklahoma are considering similar proposals.

Jarrett Dieterle, director of commercial freedom for the R Street Institute and editor of the regulatory blog, said SB 20-213 is “still more restrictive than necessary” because of its sunset requirement and purchasing limits.

"Like many other states right now, Colorado is smart to focus on updating antiquated alcohol laws, many of which trace their lineage all the way back to Prohibition,” he said. “While extending the ability of restaurants to serve booze in to-go and delivery formats is a good idea, the proposed legislation is still more restrictive than necessary. The new privileges would sunset by 2022, whereas numerous other states are considering making their COVID-related alcohol reforms permanent.”

“The bill unnecessarily limits the amount of alcohol per order, and only allows employees of licensees to conduct deliveries instead of also allowing third-party companies to help with deliveries," Dieterle added.

The legislation is backed by the Colorado Restaurant Association, which says on its website the “proposal would offer on-premise liquor licensees a desperately needed source of revenue through the COVID-19 recovery period.”