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This Alcohol Change at Restaurants Could Become Permanent, Experts Worry

Looser restrictions on to-go drinks may be here to stay—and public health advocates are concerned.
FACT CHECKED BY Joseph Neese
cocktails to go

Home alcohol deliveries became a widespread trend after COVID-19 left most Americans suddenly bound to their own kitchens. With restaurant closures happening almost daily, the relaxed rules that made alcoholic beverage deliveries possible were wholeheartedly embraced by the alcohol and restaurant industries. But keeping this level of access to alcohol beyond the pandemic could have detrimental consequences to public health, advocacy groups say.

Last year, 30 states loosened their alcohol restrictions, making to-go drinks the new normal. Not only can you order wine to be delivered by the case to your doorstep, but local restaurant orders through delivery apps can also include cocktails and beers. These allowances were supposed to be temporary moves intended to boost revenues for businesses amid sharp declines in foot traffic to restaurants and bars.

However, both businesses and their customers have loved the convenient new measures, and they don't want to go back to pre-pandemic restrictions, according to Business Insider. And the potential to make these newer, laxer alcohol laws permanent has public health groups concerned. (RELATED: The Saddest Restaurant Closures in Your State)

The American Public Health Association and the U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance are two public health advocacy groups warning about the dangerous consequences of looser alcohol laws, including higher instances of alcohol addiction, drunk driving, and underage drinking, among others.

"The more available alcohol is, the more we are likely to see increases in drinking and the harms associated with that," Alicia Sparks, vice chair of the Alcohol Policy Alliance, told Business Insider. "We fully support small businesses. We just want to be thinking of how we can help them grow in a way that's safer for communities."

But the battle may already be lost. States like Ohio, Massachusetts, Iowa, as well as the District of Columbia, have already made their to-go alcohol allowances permanent. Texas, Oklahoma, Maryland, and Florida are about to make the same changes to their laws. Mark Whatley, the National Restaurant Association's vice president for state affairs and grassroots advocacy, said he hopes that as many as 40 states would make the same concessions by the end of the year.

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Mura Dominko
Mura is a senior news editor leading ETNT's coverage of America's favorite fast foods and restaurant chains. Read more