Local restaurant owners praise bill proposing cocktails to-go

A new proposed law would allow bar and restaurants to sell mixed drinks and glasses of wine to go with a tamper-evident seal. After sweeping bipartisan support through both the State Assembly and Senate

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) —  A new proposed law would allow bar and restaurants to sell mixed drinks and glasses of wine to go with a tamper-evident seal. After sweeping bipartisan support through both the State Assembly and Senate. The Cocktails to-go legislation is on it’s way to Governor Evers’ desk. And restaurant owners say this legislation has the power to make up for a lot of lost funds.

“Business at most restaurants, it’s been almost catastrophic,” said Piggy’s Head Chef and owner Chris Roderique.

Piggy’s Restaurant in La Crosse is no stranger to the pandemic struggle.

“We had to lay off 71 employees. Which was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” said Roderique.

His business took a major hit, and Roderique says his sales were down 80% last year.

This year, he’s hoping things take a turn for the better and some new legislation has the ability to lift his ‘spirits.’

Kristine: “The great thing about the cocktails to-go legislation is it gives restaurants an additional tool to help them rebuild their businesses after a full year of shutdowns, and reduced sales,” said Kristine Hillmer, President and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

If signed by Governor Evers, bars and restaurants would have the opportunity to serve their cocktails to-go.

They would still have to follow guidelines regarding age, and drinks would need to be sealed — for take home use only.

Under current law, bars and restaurants can sell drinks to go only if they are in their original packaging.

“We saw a jump in our carry out business. People doing curb side pickup and stuff. Which is awesome, we appreciate the support. But in our business, and every other restaurant that serves alcohol, you’re missing out on those residual sales,” said Roderique.

This legislation would allow him to make up some of those lost funds.

Not only do some bar and restaurant owners approve of the measure, but so do customers.

“They actually did a survey in November, 75 percent of adults of drinking age supported the cocktail to go law,” said Roderique.

A law that could be signed by Governor Evers as early as this week.

Although the new legislation is seen as a win for some industry owners, the bill excludes places that don’t operate under specific licenses. Which leaves out places like distilleries. But overall, restaurant industry leaders say this bill provides the help they desperately need.

Those opposed to the bill have raised concerns that curbside pickups could contribute to drunk driving or allow alcohol to get into hands of those under 21.

UPDATE: Governor Evers signed the cocktails to-go bill into law on March 28, 2021.