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Coronavirus brought ability for restaurants, bars to sell mixed drinks to go; legislature seeks to make change permanent

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Taking mixed drinks to go from restaurants may soon be permanently allowed in Missouri.

The House Special Committee on Small Business heard a pair of nearly identical bills — that will be rolled together by next week — making it legal for customers to buy carryout mixed drinks from restaurants as long as they also ordered a meal and had a receipt. As the bills stand now, drinks would need to have been partially consumed in the restaurant during the meal. 

HBs 547 and 752, presented before the committee Tuesday afternoon, are expected to be tweaked as they are combined and move through the legislature. Lawmakers and representatives from the industry expressed support for mandated use of tamper-proof bags and seals for the transportation of these drinks. 

The Missouri Department of Public Safety (DPS) waived restrictions in April, as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on businesses across the state, on the sale of mixed drinks to go by restaurants and bars. Gov. Mike Parson later took executive action to extend the waiver. 

Reps. Nick Schroer and Aaron Griesheimer, both Republicans, are sponsoring the legislation in the lower chamber. 

There was broad support for the bill during witness testimony, particularly from organizations representing business owners. 

“We view this as a critical lifeline for the restaurant industry,” Jay Hahn, who represents the Missouri Restaurant Association, said. “We view this bill as critically important because we believe we’re one of the industries that have taken it the hardest during COVID.” 

He said more than 300,000 Missourians are employed in the restaurant industry. And aside from labor, perishable goods make up the top costs the industry incurs. 

Hahn also testified that DWI arrests and crashes were down in 2020.

Mike Boland, a representative from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), was the only witness to testify in opposition to the bills. 

“We’re changing a law and making it before we’re really over with COVID,” he said. “We need to look at dram shop and open container [laws] before we push this thing through because I think, as I said, we’re leaving victims with an open door for lawsuits.” 

A fiscal note attached to the bill does not show an impact on the state budget. State law permits the sale of alcohol in its original packaging from companies with a valid liquor license, but it does not allow for the sale of mixed drinks for patrons to take away.