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Colorado Restaurant Association applauds to-go drinks bill

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Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – Colorado’s largest restaurant trade organization applauded state lawmakers for advancing a bill this week that would allow customers to purchase to-go alcoholic drinks for the next five years.

HB21-1027 was originally drafted to allow restaurants to continue the practice indefinitely but was amended during the March 3 meeting of the House Business Affairs & Labor Committee. Its next stop will be in the House Finance Committee later this month.

The bipartisan bill is sponsored by Reps. Colin Larsen, R-Lakewood, and Dylan Roberts, D-Vail, and Sens. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, and Kevin Priola, R-Thornton.

“We are grateful the Business Affairs and Labor Committee addressed this issue, and we urge the Legislature to move quickly to advance and pass this bill,” Sonia Riggs, president and CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, said in a statement.

“Alcohol to-go sales have been a lifeline for restaurants amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the gravest crisis the restaurant industry has faced in living memory,” she added. "In addition, 93% of restaurant operators who responded to a recent survey said they are deriving revenue from alcohol to-go orders, and two-out-of-three restaurants said indefinitely extending alcohol to-go is needed to survive."

Colorado’s restaurant industry was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Local restrictions caused several businesses to shutter for good, sending industrywide unemployment numbers to the moon.

According to the restaurant association, the industry accounts for 10% of Colorado’s workforce. 75% of restaurants in the state are locally-owned and accounted for over $13 billion in state revenue in 2019.

However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found Colorado’s restaurant industry experienced greater-than 30% unemployment throughout the summer of 2020.

The original legislation to allow for to-go alcoholic drink sales contained an expiration date of June 1, 2020. However, lawmakers passed SB20-213 to extend the deadline for another year.

Gov. Jared Polis signed the legislation July 8, 2020. The bill extended the sunset to July 1, 2022.

To Riggs, HB-1027 represents a chance for local restaurants to start rebuilding for the future.

“Restaurants need all the financial assistance possible as we begin to recover from the pandemic. Although selling alcohol to-go beverages will not make up for all the lost revenue entirely, it gives restaurants the opportunity to serve customers and a fighting chance at survival,” she said.