By PAT RAIA, [email protected]
Floridians who place orders for restaurant take-out meals may now order cocktails to go along with them under a measure passed in the State Legislature last week. Meanwhile, some operators of restaurants that also serve alcohol believe that the measure may carry some unintended consequences.
Under SB 148, restaurants with appropriate liquor licenses may sell sealed containers of wine, beer or any alcoholic drinks prepared by the vendor, including any wine-based and liquor-based drinks for off-premises consumption as long as the beverages accompany the sale of food within the same order.
The measure was filled in December after The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation issued a temporary, emergency order last year allowing restaurants to sell alcohol with to-go food orders to help them survive the economic ramifications of COVID-19.
Still, Nicole Vogiatzis manager of the Sunset Grille of Hernando Beach believes that the legislation not only boosts responsibilities for operators of restaurants that also serve alcoholic beverages but may also endanger others by causing a spike in driving under the influence ( DUI ) incidents.
“I don’t agree with it,” she said.
According to Vogiatzis, restaurants that serve alcohol can be held liable if a customer is over-served. As a result, staff members are trained to spot a customer who has had too much to drink.
“And we shut them off if we have to, “ she said. “But you can’t say where a person has been or what they have been doing (before they arrived on the premises).”
Meanwhile, customers who receive alcoholic beverages along with their food orders could open and consume those cocktails while driving.
“You have no way of knowing,” she said. “I think we’re going to see more people dying from drinking and driving than from COVID.”
The “Cocktails-to-Go” bill now returns to the Senate for concurrence before it moves on the Governor’s desk. Concurrence means that the Florida House of Representatives amended the State Senate’s version of the bill, and is asking the Senate to accept that amendment and pass the measure as amended by the House.