Tucson, AZ

To-Go Cocktails Here To Stay In Tucson

Greyson F


The restaurant industry has taken a major hit over the last year. In many ways, it was the first industry to shut down and one of the last to open back up. And even in their current state, many restaurants struggle to stay afloat. To help, a handful of laws were passed through quickly (or at least faster than the average law) in order to assist restaurants in pulling in revenue.

The city of Tucson has done more than most other regions in the state, including a mandated surcharge cap of 15 percent on all food orders made through third-party apps (such as Uber Eats, as these apps were starting to charge upwards of 30 percent). Another way to help both bars and restaurants was the creation of the to-go cocktail order.

Most restaurants make their profits off of drink orders. Outside of a few staple foods, profits are often razor-thin regarding food. However, it is the beverage order that helps make up for this cost. So, when restaurants were forced to go dine-out only it instantly cut away a major financial crutch. And for bars, it forced them to completely shut down altogether.

Beer to-go has been an option for several years now. With the ability to fill a growler of beer directly from a local tap, then seal it for consumption later, local craft breweries have been ahead of the game when it comes to this. Additionally, with the craft beer boom in the state of Arizona, there were already laws passed that allowed not only the sale of to-go beer but the ability to cap and cork semi-consumed bottles of wine to go (instead of forcing consumers to binge the rest of the wine before leaving the restaurant or letting it go to waste).

Liquor sales are often categorized differently than beer and wine sales. Due to this, when the beer and wine to-go law passed it did not include cocktails. However, when COVID shuttered bars and restaurants local lawmakers looked to make this a way to assist restaurants in making money.

Back in November, there was some jockeying about the to-go liquor option in the state of Arizona, but not by the state government itself. It was between restaurants and bar owners. Bar owners, many of whom had already paid for specific licenses to offer to-go services, did not want restaurants to have the same to-go sale option (not only because many of the restaurants hadn’t purchased the to-go license, for which there are different licenses for beer, wine, and spirits, but also because it would limit potential to-go sales for the bars, which 100% depended on these sales to stay afloat). There are a number of liquor licenses here in Pima, where a series 12 liquor license is for a restaurant that sells food and alcohol within the restaurant. A liquor license 6 (liquor) and 7 (beer/wine) are specifically for bars and these cost more to obtain and hold onto.

Eventually, everything was smoothed out and now both restaurants and bars have the capability of selling to-go drinks. And now, it looks like this might be an option that will remain in Tucson for the foreseeable future.

A law to solidify the temporary law just passed the Arizona House, and it is moving on to the Arizona Senate, where it looks to pass there as well. Should it pass it will require establishments to have the necessary license to sell to-go alcohol orders, and the beverages must be sold in sealed containers, but in the current market, where to-go has become a necessity not only for restaurants and bars but for many consumers, this continued option will prove beneficial. It should also help raise money for the state through license fees, and with the amount of money the state has lost due to the pandemic, the ability to bring in more funding will prove helpful for state and local governments as well.

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Tucson, AZ

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