Restaurants and bars may be hurting during the pandemic, but so are people who have substance use disorder, advocates say.
Heavy drinking among adults has shot up during the pandemic, according to a September study by RAND Corporation researchers.
Making it easier to access alcohol from restaurants and bars is a bad idea, said Dorval, of the Ohio substance misuse prevention group.
His organization opposed a bill signed into law by Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in October that permanently allows restaurants and bars to offer drinks to-go. While Dorval’s group was disappointed the measure makes the practice permanent, it did successfully lobby to include a three-drink limit per order and a requirement that alcohol must be purchased with food.
“The industry has really taken the narrative of the economic devastation of restaurants and bars—which is very much real—and used it to push this agenda of drinks to-go,” he said.
One of his group’s biggest concerns is that meal delivery services will bring cocktails to people under 21. While companies must obtain a special alcohol delivery state permit that requires delivery drivers to check IDs, the language is “very basic and very broad,” Dorval said.
“They have to make a bona fide effort to check the ID, but there are not enough guardrails on these third-party delivery vendors,” he said.
“If you’re going to a restaurant, there’s a far greater chance your ID will be checked.”
But Ohio Republican state Rep. Jeff LaRe, who co-sponsored the bill, said in an interview with Stateline that requiring meal delivery companies to get the special permit was a way to put teeth into the law to make sure those under 21 aren’t getting their hands on alcohol.
“It’s not really different than walking into the gas station and getting a sixpack,” he said. “These companies need to ensure they are delivering products to someone of age. They risk fines and potentially losing their license.”
Restaurant industry officials say operators are working hard to ensure deliveries are done responsibly, safely and legally.
“These restaurants have to follow the same protocols that they would follow if you walk into them. The same rules apply,” Shedelbower said. “It’s harder to do that during COVID; it’s more challenging. But as an industry we can make it work.”©2021 The Pew Charitable Trusts. Visit at stateline.org. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.