Are cocktails to-go here to stay?

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 5:15 PM EDT
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WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - Take-out alcohol could be here to stay under a new bill delivered to Vermont Governor Phil Scott for his signature. The governor signed a cocktails-to-go executive order last year at a time when the restaurant industry was being ravaged by the pandemic. Now, a new bill, which has passed both the House and the Senate, extends the alcohol to-go service for another two years.

Two friends from Woodstock ordered cocktails Thursday afternoon at the Wolf Tree’s takeout window in White River Junction. Both women said they ordered alcohol to-go when COVID first hit. “The pandemic happened and then all of a sudden we are working from home and everyone was just wearing sweatshirts, sweatpants and we needed a reason to get dressed up and do something fun,” said Samantha Van de ven

It gave them something to do and it also added a new experience to the routine bar and nightlife scene. “Take it to the park, got to the river. Being able to have the freedom to take it to go,” said Lauren French.

For businesses, the governor’s order was a lifeline. “It helped tremendously. It was really the reason that we are still here.,” said Wolf Tree owner Max Overstrom-Coleman, who supports the extension. “I don’t necessarily see the necessity of putting an end date on it.”

Around the corner, outdoor seating gave the Tuckerbox a big boost during tough times. Owner Jackie Oktay says their curbside alcohol sales were an added draw at a time when residents were being asked to stay close to home. “I never could have imagined that pre-pandemic, but every little thing helped,” she said.

Police in this town say there is always a concern that cocktails to-go could lead to more people driving under the influence. However, they have not seen any data over the last year that indicates it’s a problem.

“Hopefully it will become a permanent thing if we have done it for a year now and there haven’t been big problems with it or big consequences. I mean, there is definitely a way to do it responsibly,” Oktay said.

The bill, which landed on the governor’s desk this week, also requires the Department of Liquor and Lottery to study its economic impact and what, if any, impact it had on public safety.

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