To-go alcohol to be a permanent part of restaurant takeout

Restaurants Allowed to Reopen Rioja Larimer Square
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Bartender John Armstrong is a busy blur at Rioja on Friday, May 29, 2020, after the state eased restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Picking up a to-go cocktail or glass of wine will be a permanent feature of restaurant takeout in Colorado, thanks to a new law signed by the governor.

Gov. Jared Polis used an executive order to start allowing restaurants to sell to-go alcoholic beverages during the early days of the pandemic, with the hope that the extra revenue would help keep their doors open. In 2021, the legislature put the policy into law, but only on a trial basis.

This year, they voted overwhelmingly to make to-go alcohol permanent.

“Patrons and restaurants alike have found that alcohol-to-go is a popular offering that has become a small but important source of revenue for many businesses,” the Colorado Restaurant Associations’ Kayla Tibbals told lawmakers at a hearing in April.

Thirty states have to-go alcohol policies, either as permanent laws or as temporary policies set up, like Colorado’s, during the pandemic.

“It’s working really, really well. We’ve got four years of success in this state with our restaurants,” said Democratic Rep. William Lindstet at the hearing. “We should give them the reliability of a permanent statute.”

Almost 1900 Colorado restaurants currently hold the special permit needed to sell alcohol to go, either as part of a pickup or delivery order. To comply with state rules, they must put drinks in sealed containers to help prevent drinking and driving. They also must verify purchasers’ age and follow restrictions on how much alcohol can be sold per order.

Polis signed the bill into law Friday at the Cactus Flower restaurant in Pueblo.