Cocktails To-Go: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Shaped New Regulations on Liquor Licenses in Florida

Cocktails To-Go:  How the COVID-19 Pandemic Shaped New Regulations on Liquor Licenses in Florida

As a result of the heavy financial burdens restaurants across Florida faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-71. This emergency order allowed restaurants and on-premise retailers to sell carry-out alcoholic beverages to help increase revenue. Several establishments around Florida found this expansion of their liquor licenses to be crucial to keeping their operations open as 2020 was just the tipping point of the pandemic.

In May of 2021, Governor DeSantis signed Senate Bill 148 into law, amending Florida Statute § 561.20 to authorize restaurants with “quota licenses” or “special restaurant” alcoholic beverage licenses (“SRX”) to sell and deliver alcoholic drinks prepared and sealed by the restaurant. In addition to maintaining the appropriate licenses discussed above, the establishment must have at least 2,500 square feet of dining area and a one hundred and fifty (150)-person capacity to qualify. Further, the licensee must receive 51% of their revenue from food and non-alcoholic beverage purchases to be able to sell “to-go” cocktails, beer, and wine.

Although this is a great avenue for restaurants to earn additional revenue, these licensed establishments must ensure strict compliance with the rules and regulations of the State of Florida to protect the health and safety of our communities. Every licensed establishment providing “to-go” alcoholic beverages must verify through government identification cards such as a driver’s license or passport that the individual is twenty-one (21) years old. Further, the establishments have the sole responsibility to ensure all “to-go” cocktails, beer, or wine are not larger than thirty-two (32) ounces and are placed in a sealed container. In an aid to assist licensed establishments in acquiring a minimum of 51% of revenue in food or non-alcoholic beverages, the State of Florida requires a purchase of a food item within the same order of the “to-go” alcoholic beverages. Thus, a consumer in Florida is not allowed to solely purchase “to-go” cocktails, beer, or wine from any licensed vendor.

Even though there are several responsibilities placed on licensed establishments, the amendments do place a burden on the consumers of the “to-go” alcoholic beverages. To demonstrate, in the event the licensee did not seal the container(s) and the consumer is transporting it in their car, the beverages must be placed in a locked compartment such as the trunk or the area behind the last upright seat of the car.

With the passing of Senate Bill 148, there has been an expansion of the rules and regulations surrounding liquor licenses and it will only go further. Whether you want to begin your journey in creating a brand new business or you wish to expand your current operations, now is the time to reach out to an expert to learn more of the opportunities available to you. Contact PS Law Group for a consultation to start structuring your business plan today. We look forward to hearing from you!



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