Capitol Beat News Service
This story also appeared in Capitol Beat News Service

Cocktails-to-go edged closer to becoming a reality in Georgia with passage in the state Senate Friday of a measure allowing restaurants to sell curbside alcoholic beverages in tightly sealed containers with takeout food.

Sponsored by Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, the bill would permit Georgians ages 21 and older to buy up to two mixed drinks in to-go cups with a maximum 3 ounces of liquor in each, or about two shots-worth. Georgia already permits to-go sales of beer and wine.

The drinks would have to be kept in cups without any holes for straws and sealed so securely it would be easy to tell if the cup has been opened before the purchaser arrives home. To-go drinks would also have to be stored in a glove box, locked trunk or behind the back seat while driving.

To-go drinks could not be sold on their own: Customers would have to buy food along with a takeaway alcoholic beverage. Third-party delivery services like Uber Eats, Doordash and Grubhub also could not bring cocktails to someone’s home due to legal liability issues, Brass said.

“One thing we learned from the pandemic is our hospitality industry was hit very, very hard,” Brass said from the Senate floor. “All we’re simply trying to do here is give them one more tool here to bounce back.”

“That tool is going to be a screwdriver,” he added. “And that screwdriver is going to be to-go.”

The measure passed 36-10 and now heads to the state House of Representatives.

Supporters have hailed legalized to-go drinks as a way to help struggling restaurants prop up sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has pummeled the food-service industry in Georgia over the past year.

Nearly 4,000 restaurants have closed in the state during the pandemic, with $5 billion lost in sales and around 100,000 employees left jobless, according to Karen Bremer, president of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

Opponents who have long resisted expanding alcohol sales on moral and practical grounds worry allowing motorists to take home cocktails could worsen traffic safety, spurring more drunk driving and potentially fatal car crashes.

Brass’ bill follows a separate law change passed last summer that allowed restaurants, supermarkets and liquor stores to make home deliveries of beer, wine and distilled spirits, subject to the approval of local voters.

This story available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Beau Evans is a reporter for Capitol Beat, a service of the Georgia Press Education Foundation.