Alcohol delivery and takeout could be allowed for two more years in Colorado

Over the past few months in Colorado, drinkers have been unpacking bottles of wine from their restaurant to-go bags, or carrying out plastic cups filled with margaritas alongside their tacos, or getting Old Fashioneds delivered right to their doorsteps with dinner.

As one of the rare, crowd-pleasing effects of the age of coronavirus and quarantine, to-go alcohol also has helped to keep restaurants and bars afloat during the 10-week shutdown. Around 87% of Colorado restaurants report making revenue from it, the Colorado Restaurant Association says.

But even as restaurants and bars begin to reopen, state lawmakers are considering extending the takeout alcohol provision for another two years, at least. Senate Bill 20-213 was introduced in the Colorado General Assembly this week, and would allow alcohol takeout and delivery to continue through July 2022.

At that point, the legislation would automatically be repealed, so that lawmakers and the public could decide if alcohol to-go should become the law indefinitely.

“This is changing the law, but it’s doing so temporarily,” said Mike Laszlo, a Colorado-based liquor attorney who represents restaurant and bar clients. Laszlo emphasized that the bill would just continue Gov. Jared Polis’ order and then “repeal itself” at around the two-year mark.

Until then, it would allow restaurants, bars, breweries, distillery pubs and other businesses with various liquor licenses to sell their alcohol for takeout and delivery, as they have been doing since March.

A wine slushie from Denver’s Infinite Monkey Theorem, to go. (Provided by Infinite Monkey Theorem)

RELATED: Colorado restaurants can now deliver alcohol along with to-go food

Businesses would be restricted by their to-go container sizes (750ml for wine and spirits and 72 fluid ounces for beer and ciders), and they would also have to keep their gross revenue from food and alcohol takeout and delivery to a maximum 50% of total sales revenue.

Laszlo added that restaurants already need to maintain 25% of their sales from food, “so if they did become (more like) retail liquor stores,” he said, “they could only sell so much. So that’s important to know; there are limitations.”

Chad Michael George, president of the nonprofit EatDenver and board member of the Colorado Bartenders Guild, said he sees this law benefitting a lot of small businesses that have been struggling for the past 2½ months.

“Things aren’t going to be the same for a long time,” he said of restaurant and bar culture, “and every little drop we can contribute to helping restaurants survive is worth fighting for. … Here’s one thing that we can do that can make an immediate impact.”

But the law also would inevitably impact liquor stores, which have seen increased sales during the pandemic.