But some health care advocates worry that making alcohol more easily available during the pandemic will lead to increased substance use disorder and underage drinking.
“We really don’t have underage drinking under control. We really don’t have problem drinking under control. And we’re doing this now?” said Jean-Philippe Dorval, an advocacy liaison at the Prevention Action Alliance, an Ohio advocacy group that focuses on preventing substance misuse.
“Now is not the time you want to increase availability of a substance that makes these problems worse.”
The restaurant industry has been hit hard during the pandemic. Most states halted indoor dining in the early months. Even after states adopted limited indoor dining, patrons often have been reluctant to come inside.
As of early December, 17% of restaurants nationally—110,000—have closed either permanently or for the long term, said Whatley.
While more than two dozen states allowed beer or wine to-go sales before the pandemic, typically in conjunction with the sale of food, mixed drinks are a new addition, said the Wine Institute’s Gross.
And the change has become quite popular, Whatley said.
The added revenue represents an average of 10% of restaurants’ off-premise sales, according to Whatley. That has enabled some restaurant owners to bring back one or two laid-off staffers, he said.
The industry is concerned, however, that once state emergency COVID-19 orders are lifted, alcohol to-go won’t be allowed anymore. They want state legislatures to pass laws making it permanent.