California eases alcohol rules for restaurants, allowing to-go sales for beer, wine and cocktails

Bottles of Fireman's Brew beer make their way down the production line at Skyscraper Brewing in El Monte
California restaurants may now sell beer, wine and pre-mixed drinks or cocktails for pick-up or delivery, as long as they are sold with food and secured with a lid or cap.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

You’ll be able to get that margarita to go under a temporary measure taken by the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

California restaurants may now sell “beer, wine, and pre-mixed drinks or cocktails” for pick-up or delivery as long as they have “a secure lid or cap” (without a hole for sipping or a straw) and are sold with food. The state has also lifted its ban on alcohol sold at drive-through windows.

It’s one of a number of steps taken by the agency to ease the pain on restaurants and retailers hurt by the downturn in traffic caused by the coronavirus and shelter-in-place order, made statewide Friday night by Gov. Gavin Newsom.


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ABC said it has “carefully considered the public’s health, safety, and welfare in providing this relief” and was acting on Newsom’s emergency order “to support the alcoholic beverage industry in its efforts to assist California in slowing the spread of the virus while assisting the industry in dealing with the economic challenges it is facing as a result.”

Many restaurants have shifted their operations to takeout and delivery with skeleton staffs, pared by layoffs and cut hours. Now they can include alcohol in that service.

In addition to restaurants, restrictions have loosened on craft distilleries, which will be allowed to take delivery orders of up to 2.25 liters per person per day. Restaurants with full liquor licenses will be permitted to sell drinks to go as well as pre-packaged beer, wine and spirits. Those that sell beer and wine will be able to sell that to go.

Each to-go container is required to be transported in the trunk of your vehicle or, if that isn’t possible, in another unoccupied area of the car. Establishments will be required to display that rule in some manner.

During mandated dine-in closures, these restaurants are offering takeout and delivery as the coronavirus pandemic keeps Los Angeles close to home.

Any restrictions on operating hours, outside of the four-hour ban on alcohol sales between 2 and 6 a.m., have been lifted. Alcohol manufacturers are also free to accept returns from retailers, who will be permitted to sell among themselves if they aren’t able to return their booze.

Just as manufacturers and retailers will be left to establish their own terms on returns, the state won’t enforce its 30-day limit on credit to retailers or require penalties for late payments. But it “will be up to the parties to determine appropriate credit terms during this time,” the policy reads.