Bill moves forward for to-go cocktails to stay permanently in Florida

Getting booze to-go was a staple during the pandemic. Now there’s debate about how it would work.

Gov. DeSantis signed an executive order at the start of the pandemic allowing take-out alcohol orders as a way to help restaurants survive.

Don Julio’s in Lake Mary went from 50 takeout orders a day to 200 during the pandemic. A lot of those orders included alcoholic drinks.

It may look like orange juice, but really it’s a gallon of mango margarita. It’s become the norm for to-go sales at Don Julio’s in Lake Mary.

"It helped the business a lot. Thanks to all the takeout, all the customers, we still have a job," said Jorge Vasquez, the general manager for Don Julio’s in Lake Mary.

That’s why Florida lawmakers are looking to make to-go cocktails from bars and restaurants permanent. It's part of a bill that is moving through committees in the House and Senate right now. The pandemic sparked the to-go cocktail craze. "We would have the line outside just waiting for the drinks, for the margaritas," said Vasquez.

There is some pushback over exactly what type of alcohol bars and restaurants could continue to sell to-go.

"I don’t think that’s the proper venue to be selling hard liquor by the bottle. We have other places called liquor stores where you can get that," said State Rep. Scott Plakon, R- Longwood. Rep. Plakon would like to limit to-go drinks to beer and wine.

Democrat state Rep. Anna Eskamani says specialty cocktails should also be permitted. "That is a characteristic of many of our small businesses that have allowed them to survive even when bars were shut down," said state Rep. Eskamani.

Don Julio’s will take what they can get.

"People were coming in to get one, two, three gallons, one, two, three drinks and I think a lot of the sales went toward alcohol sales."

The bill also calls for capping drinks to 32-ounce containers and would require drivers to put them in locked compartments or in the trunk to prevent drinking and driving. The bill could go to the House floor in the next few weeks and if passed, could go into effect by July.

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