By Robert F. Lewis
Prior to the pandemic, SFS licensees, meaning your typical full-service restaurant meeting the State’s special food service license requirements, were restricted to selling alcohol for consumption on the premises only. However, demand for cocktails-to-go spiked throughout the nation during lockdown. In order to accommodate public need, various states adopted emergency measures allowing some alcohol products and cocktails prepared on the premises to be sold “to-go” with food orders. The new privilege proved to be a sustainable practice for restaurants and a much-welcomed convenience for patrons. Naturally then, it was only a matter of time before the restaurant industry reached out to legislators to solidify the privilege with permanent legislation that has been marked as one of the most significant changes to alcohol laws in Florida since Prohibition. Recently adopted statutes added the cocktails-to-go privilege for specified licensees, but the requirements for implementing a program can be tedious especially for smaller business owners.
All SFS licensees must comply with the following:
- Alcohol may only be sold while the kitchen is open and food service is available.
- Manufacturer sealed/bottled beer and wine (distilled spirits may not be sold by the bottle) may be sold to go along with wine and liquor-based cocktails prepared on the premises.
- Cocktails to go must be accompanied by the sale of food within the same order. Additionally:
- The cocktail container must be sealed in such a manner that it cannot be immediately opened.
- Cocktail containers must be placed in a bag or other container that is secured in such a way that it is visibly apparent if the carrying delivery container has been opened.
- A dated receipt must be included in the bag/container and the bag must be placed in a locked compartment, the trunk or behind the last row of seats.
- Delivery drivers must be 21 and must check ID at the time of delivery. It is the licensee’s responsibility to confirm the age of delivery drivers at the time of pick-up.
- Patrons that have purchased a meal and partially consumed a bottle of wine on the premises may take the bottle of wine if it is resealed and placed in a bag or other container that is also sealed in such a manner that it is visible and apparent if the bag or delivery container had been tampered with. The bag must include a dated receipt.
- Manufacturer sealed containers of beer sold to-go cannot exceed 32 ounces (growlers typically 64 oz. are not permitted).
All privileges come with burdens but an effective and compliant cocktails-to-go program can help draw in more customers and make your business more appealing to those looking for a more inclusive take-out experience.