PHOENIX — A handful of Arizona legislators have proposed a bill that would allow restaurants to again sell to-go alcohol.
The proposed bill, HB 2773, would allow restaurants to apply for an additional license that would allow them to sell wine, beer, and cocktails to-go, and would also allow them to sell it through third-party delivery apps, who would have to apply for a license of their own. You can read the proposed bill, here.
Licenses would be issued by the Arizona Department of Liquor, according the proposal, and licensees would also have to undergo training
It was introduced by Rep. Jeff Weninger, R-D17, and is heavily supported by the Arizona Restaurant Association.
Last summer, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order that allowed restaurants to sell to-go alcohol in an attempt to help restaurants boost sales while their dining rooms were either closed or at reduced capacity.
Bar owners, however, felt that the decision was arbitrary and put them at a disadvantage because under Ducey’s executive order, most bars were not allowed to reopen under the state’s COVID-19 guidance. They sued Gov. Ducey, arguing that the ruling violated state law, and a judge agreed.
Bars pay a premium price for a specialty liquor license, either a Series 6 or 7 license, that allows them to serve and sell alcohol for on- and off-site consumption.
Most restaurants have a restaurant license, also known as a Series 12 license, which allows restaurants to sell food and alcohol, but does not allow them to sell alcohol to-go.
In a recent interview with ABC15, Steve Chucri, who leads the Arizona Restaurant Association, said he was disappointed in the judge’s ruling, but had to accept it.
“It’s widely popular. We think it’s going to pass,” he said, adding that to-go alcohol was a life-saver for many restaurants. He argued that grocery stores and retail stores actually benefited the most from alcohol sales amid the pandemic.
In the same interview, Chucri, who is also an elected member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said an estimated 10%-12% of restaurants -- 1,000 - 1,200 restaurants -- closed between February and December 2020. Typically, he said, 2%-3% of restaurants closed in a given year.
Chef Justin Beckett, who owns Beckett's Table and Southern Rail, sent out a tweet in support of the proposed bill and encouraged his followers to send a letter to their representatives encouraging them to support it.