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Missouri lawmakers request bars, restaurants be allowed to sell mixed drinks to-go

The Missouri Department of Public Safety (DPS) has cut off a request from lawmakers to relax certain regulations on bars and restaurants as many have had to close or improvise during the coronavirus crisis. 

Under a statewide social distancing order — and with several local municipalities instituting “stay at home” orders and curfews — many joints have had to close dining rooms or shutter completely. Others, such as BarVino in Jefferson City or Logboat Brewing Company in Columbia, have had to improvise and began selling to-go beers, wines, and liquor. 

A bar in Columbia, Mo. has requested customers order from its side window on the street. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/KAITLYN SCHALLHORN)

But while state law permits the sale of alcohol in its original packaging from companies with a valid liquor license, it does not allow for the sale of mixed drinks “to go” — something Sen. Lauren Arthur and Rep. Wes Rogers hope will change to alleviate hardships businesses are facing.

Other states, like Texas and New York, have already waived regulations regarding the sale and delivery of alcohol to be consumed off-premise during the global pandemic. 

In an open letter Monday, Arthur and Rogers asked DPS to temporarily waive the restriction of businesses selling mixed drinks for off-premise consumption. 

“This small and temporary change will bolster the ability of businesses in our state to maintain an income stream in these hard economic times,” the two Kansas City-area Democrats said. 

Arthur and Rogers said: 

“Throughout the state, Missouri’s restaurants and bars are doing their best to adhere to this important public health directive [of social distancing]. They are also trying to avoid massive layoffs and business closures. We should admire these establishments’ innovation to stay operational for the benefit of their employees.

However, current law prohibits bars and restaurants from selling open containers or sealed mixed drinks for off-premise consumption. These prohibitions make absolute sense in a normal business and regulatory climate. However, there is nothing normal about our current situation.” 

The Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control said it “recognizes” how COVID-19 “is affecting businesses across the state in many different ways,” in a social media post. However, it maintained open containers and drinks sealed by a retailer cannot be taken for off-premise consumption, with the exception of unfinished wine and re-packaged products already allowed under state statute. 

DPS spokesman Mike O’Connell told The Missouri Times Monday the department is “not looking at a change.”

Nearly 200 Missourians have tested positive for coronavirus, and three people have died. Gov. Mike Parson has declared a state of emergency. 

Parson also signed an executive order Monday suspending the prohibition on sales of unprepared foods by restaurants to the public. He said this order was to “assist restaurants” as they have had to close their dining rooms or businesses completely during this time. 

The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” while the disease is called “coronavirus disease 2019,” or “COVID-19.” It can cause severe respiratory illnesses with symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned.

There have been more than 33,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., and 400 deaths, according to the CDC

DHSS has opened a public hotline operated by medical professionals around the clock seven days a week. The hotline number is 877-435-8411.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.