Proposed Wis. law would allow to-go cocktails, relief for restaurant industry

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 9:53 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2021 at 10:29 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A bi-partisan bill would allow patrons to take single-serve cocktails to-go from restaurants, bringing relief to business owners.

If passed, the bill would only apply to bars and restaurants with a license to sell wine and spirits on site. This would allow them to sell mixed drinks in to-go containers with “tamper-evident” seals.

”Getting to meet people, the social aspect of it is amazing,” Ryan Huber, Settle Down Tavern owner and operator said.

Serving up spirits in-house keeps Huber’s hands full at Settle Down Tavern.   

“There’s constant interaction. It’s fun to stay active you know,” he said.

But Covid-19 has been bad for business. Huber said they rely on regulars and to-go drink kits to stay open.

“The margarita is super popular, but the way the law has been you have to buy the whole bottle tequila,” he said.

If it passes, a new bill would allow patrons to take single-serve cocktails out the door.     

“We think we’ll see a spike in revenue for sure,” Huber said.

The pandemic made to-go meals a go-to. If alcohol is added into the mix, service industry experts said it will keep more businesses open.   

“We are very concerned with the brutal economic nature of the impact on restaurants, and we see that cocktails to-go is just a tool that they can use to help them survive and come out of this on the other side,” Kristine Hillmer, Wisconsin Restaurant Association president said.

Hillmer teamed up with the Tavern League to get the ball rolling on legislation. Sen. Mary Felzkowski backs the bill with bipartisan support.

“I care about small businesses. I never want to see somebody lose their business. If we can lessen some regulations to make it easier for them to make a profit and stay in business, I think it’s our responsibility to do this,” Sen. Felzkowski said in a phone interview.

Huber calls it a game changer.

“Fish fry to go with supporting a small business, and you can add an old-fashioned in that for a full experience? Yeah of course,” Huber said.

The bill is still gathering co-sponsors through next week. Sen. Felkowski says she hopes the bill makes it to the Senate by the end of February.

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