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Missouri may permanently OK curbside cocktails

By Summer Ballentine The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers on Wednesday advanced a bill to make a temporary rule allowing curbside cocktails during the coronavirus pandemic permanent.

The Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control temporarily relaxed liquor rules so restaurants could sell to-go mixed drinks when the virus first hit the state last year, but the waiver is set to expire at the end of March.

The pending Missouri bill would make the policy change permanent.

The goal is to help struggling restaurants make up for a stark drop in alcohol sales and other business because of the pandemic, which Ferguson Democratic Rep. Raychel Proudie said has been devastating for her area.

“That was catastrophic for a lot of restaurants in my district that will never open again," said Proudie, who supports permanently allowing to-go cocktails.

Missouri already allowed takeout beer sales in sealed containers called growlers and crowlers before the pandemic hit.

Under the new legislation, restaurants would need to put mixed drinks in tamper-proof, sealed containers to help prevent drinking while driving. Customers who want alcohol would also have to buy food.

Republican bill sponsor Rep. Nick Schroer, of O'Fallon, said the bill includes limits to “keep the public safe but still allow the liberty of these business owners to move forward.”

The bill mirrors the curbside cocktail rules that are currently in place under the temporary waiver, and Schroer said the policy has been successful so far.

“We have not seen any exponential evidence that this is going to result in more accidents or DWIs,” Schroer said.

Critics of the Missouri bill include Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which also has raised concerns about similar legislation in other states contributing to drunken driving.

More than half of states eased alcohol restrictions to allow takeout cocktail sales during the pandemic, and Iowa became the first state to permanently allow carryout and delivery of cocktails in July.

The Missouri bill needs another vote of approval in the House before it can go to the Republican-led state Senate for consideration.