Hello, new world! The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board just greenlit the sale of to-go and delivery cocktails.
Robert Thoms, a Tacoma city council member, who sent the LCB a letter urging them to allow the sale of pre-mixed cocktails, just emailed me to let me know that premixed cocktails can be sold starting today!
Thoms said that this "absolutely" was a result of his letter to the LCB and "more pushes and pressure" on the entity to make the change.
Effective immediately, an announcement from the LCB sent to The Stranger by Thoms reads, "restaurants with a spirits, beer, and wine license issued by the LCB may sell pre-mixed alcoholic drinks ("cocktails") for consumption off the licensed premises during the COVID-19 Stay Home-Stay Healthy Order." That means take-out drinks!
Effective! Immediately! Tell your bars! Tell your restaurants! You can get a cocktail to-go baby. Until the stay-home order is lifted on June 4, that is. In order to do so, though, you'll have to get a "bonafide complete meal" which is defined here as an entree. A side dish is not required but must be offered.
You can get pre-mixed drinks delivered, too.
This is a big deal for an industry that was living on the margins during good economic times. A letter from the Washington Hospitality Association sent to the LCB in April described the situation aptly:
For many “spirit, beer, wine, restaurant” license holders, this is the only margin that truly generates an actual profit. Cocktails provide a valuable revenue source in the form of high profit repeated in small transactions allowing bars and restaurants to capitalize on the sale of spirits. Selling liquor by the bottle in a channel-pricing state means restaurants and bars cannot compete with grocery store pricing.
Until Wednesday afternoon, the LCB had only allowed liquor, wine, and beer to be sold in sealed bottles in their original packaging. That was a big relaxation of pre-existing rules but not enough to keep restaurants and bars, which rely heavily on alcohol sales in non-pandemic times, afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While establishments pivoted to cocktail making kits (liquor and cocktail mix sold separately), it was not cost-effective due to the LCB's limitations. Essentially, a customer could only purchase either an entire handle of liquor and the cocktail mix or a mini airplane-sized bottle of liquor and the cocktail mix.
"There are a lot of people who are teetotalers who don’t want to buy a pint of tequila," Rob Knode, a Bellingham-based food and drink industry insurer, told me. "That's 12 shots. I think what the restaurants are wanting to do is use their full license just like taverns." Breweries, considered taverns, are allowed to fill growlers and crowlers to-go. "Why can’t we make it so you can sell 1 gin and tonic?"
Now restaurants and bars can. Well, as long as cocktails are packaged in "a container with a secure lid or cap and in a manner designed to prevent consumption without removal of the lid or cap," according to LCB guidelines. That means no "lids with sipping holes or opening for straws" and "styrofoam and plastic cups sealed over with tape or other materials."
Washington has just joined the long list of states that greenlit to-go pre-mixed cocktails when this shit originally hit the fan. Hell yeah!