Local restaurants can now sell cocktails to-go

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In a new stay home order allowance, restaurants with a license to serve spirits, beer and wine can now sell pre-mixed cocktails to-go, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board announced on May 6.

The new rule was effective immediately. Some local restaurants started serving pre-mixed drinks right away, while others started working toward being able to.

The rule comes with some stipulations – a complete meal must be ordered with the cocktail and the drink must be in a non-Styrofoam container with a secure lid or cap with no hole for sipping or for a straw. The pre-mixed drinks must be placed in the trunk or out of reach of the driver.

Bob's Burgers and Brew in Birch Bay started selling select pre-mixed cocktails in glass jars soon after hearing about the rule change, said general manager Cody Bowden. The new allowance adds about $200 to $300 to the restaurant's revenue on Friday and Saturday nights, he said.

“It has definitely had a positive impact on our business,” he said. “It would have been nice to be able to do it right away when we were shut down. It’s hard to tell people for two months that we’re not doing it and then start selling cocktails again. It’s not on their minds anymore.”

Paso Del Norte in Blaine plans to offer pre-mixed cocktails starting next week, said owner Miguel Ramos. Ramos ordered a machine for sealing plastic cups, which will be cheaper than other state-allowed containers such as glass jars. Paso Del Norte currently offers a virgin margarita that comes with a small sealed bottle of tequila, and other kits for mixing drinks at home. The liquor board began allowing restaurants and bars to sell sealed liquor bottles with food in late March.

When he can start selling pre-mixed drinks rather than kits, Ramos will make about 65 cents more per drink, he said. About 35 percent of customers order a drink, and most of those orders are for margaritas.

“I'm super happy that the state did it,” he said. “It's going to be a good thing for us.”

The Vault Wine Bar and Bistro in Blaine doesn't serve liquor, but it began offering kits for making mimosas and other drinks with fresh-squeezed juice and sparkling wine soon after restaurants were ordered to close. Despite the new state law, the Vault will continue to offer its drinks in kits so that the ingredients are fresher and the wine is still bubbling, co-owner Joni Finston said.

The new state allowance isn't permanent and will expire within 30 days of the restaurant’s county entering phase four of the state’s four-phase plan, the liquor and cannabis board said when announcing the new rule.

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