Cocktails-to-go, brewery deliveries may become permanent perks in NJ
Special rules were created to get alcohol in your hands during the coronavirus pandemic, and those rules may stick around, if a proposed state law keeps chugging along in Trenton.
A panel of lawmakers on Monday approved legislation that would, among other moves, permanently permit restaurants and bars to sell mixed drinks for takeout, as long as they leave the establishment in sealed containers.
New Jersey would become the 18th state to make cocktails-to-go a permanent option for eateries and consumers, according to Dana Lancellotti, president of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association.
"Please note that cocktails-to-go is just that, a single cocktail — not a bottle of wine or a fifth of gin," Lancellotti told the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
Lancellotti said the to-go drink option has been embraced by restaurants as an additional revenue source since the pandemic hit New Jersey. The COVID-19 emergency led to more than a year of either limited or no indoor dining.
The bill notes that all to-go mixed drinks would need to be affixed with a tamper evident seal. Individual drinks must not be more than 16 fluid ounces.
Delivery from NJ breweries
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex, and Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, would also cement a now-temporary rule that permits New Jersey breweries to deliver their products straight to the consumer.
"There's still a great consumer demand," said Eric Orlando, executive director of the Brewers Guild of New Jersey.
The delivery option was "really a lifeline" for breweries during the pandemic, Orlando said. It kept folks employed and offered opportunities to the consumer.
Because of the straight-to-consumer delivery option, many breweries made investments — for packaging lines and trucks, for example — to get use out of beer that would have otherwise been intended for draft sales at restaurants and bars.
"We would hate to see those investments go for naught," Orlando said.
Bolero Snort Brewery in Carlstadt brought on more staff and invested in extra infrastructure in the face of the pandemic, instead of letting people go, because of the delivery option, said co-owner Scott Wells.
"Two years later, I could say, absolutely we are not back to normal on our on-site business," Wells said. "We have not fully recovered."
Today, delivery is giving Bolero Snort the ability to reach customers in parts of New Jersey it otherwise wouldn't be able to access, he said.