The DC Council passed an emergency bill today to offer relief to a city that’s been ground to halt by the coronavirus crisis. Among the provisions that could aid restaurants and bars forced to shut down dine-in service: the ability to offer alcohol with food deliveries and takeout.
The legislation will allow restaurants or bars to offer closed containers of beer, wine, and spirits to-go as long as the beverages are accompanied by at least one prepared food item (which can be as simple as a sandwich, salad, or smoothie). Beyond bottles and cans, businesses can offer growlers and crowlers of beer and wine (though not of spirits). There is no maximum for how much alcohol can be sold. Deliveries and carryout are allowed from 7 AM to midnight.
Businesses must register with ABRA here before beginning takeout or delivery of alcohol. As for checking ID, the regulations require delivery people to make a “reasonable effort” to verify age. Delivery is only allowed within the District’s borders.
ABRA spokesperson Jared Powell says the agency worked with urgency given the change would have to happen fast to be meaningful.
“All agencies are trying to be responsive while trying to build the plane while flying,” says Powell. “We’re all working around the clock to provide these opportunities.”
While the ability to deliver alcohol is by no means a save-all, it could give restaurants at least some boost in an otherwise dire situation. Restaurant attorney Scott Rome, who works on many liquor license issues, notes that food margins in the industry are already thin, and alcohol sales are where many businesses make a big chunk of their money.
“It’s a band-aid on a big open wound, but it’s something,” says Rome.
This story has been updated to reflect the final regulations.