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Senate votes to continue pandemic-era carryout cocktails in Michigan

Restaurant and bar owners told lawmakers the bill was a lifeline during the pandemic and has grown to be part of their business model. (Shutterstock)

A pandemic-era policy allowing bars and restaurants to sell carry-out and delivery cocktails would be made permanent under legislation passed through the Michigan Senate this week. 

The concept was initially approved as a temporary change amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when stay-home orders and subsequent limitations on in-person dining had restaurants and bars scrambling for new ways to stay afloat.


Michigan distillers were especially hard hit, as many local distilleries didn’t have a full menu or options under law at the time to get their liquor to customers off-premises. 


The change allowed liquor licensees to sell packaged and sealed containers of mixed drinks with any delivery or takeout orders. Similar to a customer purchasing a bottle of wine or a growler of beer, a customer purchasing carry-out drinks has to flash identification at point of sale or delivery.

Initially, the policy was crafted with an end date of Jan. 1, 2026 so officials could monitor whether the change had any impact on drunk driving or underage drinking. 

Those concerns haven’t panned out, Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, told lawmakers during a recent Senate Regulatory Affairs Committee meeting. 

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” McMorrow, the bill’s sponsor, said at the time, adding that establishments that have built business models around takeout in the years since should be able to continue doing so.


On Wednesday, senators approved the bill with nearly unanimous support, voting 37-1 to send the legislation to the House for further consideration. A similar effort to make the policy permanent passed the Senate in late 2022, but was never signed into law. 

Many business owners say carry-out cocktails have grown to be an essential part of their business model. 

Charlie Samson, co-owner of Whiskey Taco Foxtrot in Clawson, opened his business in March 2020, shortly before COVID-19 pandemic-related restaurant closures started. Since then, he told lawmakers this month, the business has sold 27,100 carryout orders — 10,000 of which included cocktails. 

“It’s been a huge lifeline for us…keeping people employed, keeping us moving forward,” he said.

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