GRETNA, Va. — On July 1, Virginia chose to extend its portable alcohol laws, allowing restaurants across the state to continue serving to-go drinks to their customers. This law was put into place in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic and the lockdowns that came with it.
The success of to-go drinks has helped many restaurants stay afloat during these hard times. Because of that, Virginia lawmakers have extended House Bill 1845 in order to further benefit the state’s restaurant industry.
Manger of Jose’s Taco and Tequila Bar in Gretna, Victor Sanchez, is somewhat indifferent about the to-go alcohol law.
“There’s still some profits, but not much. It used to be during the pandemic there was a lot,” Sanchez said. “People are tired of sitting and drinking at home. They like coming here and sitting at the bar better.”
When asked about whether or not Sanchez has seen a higher rate of intoxication and needed to cut costumers off he said, “I don’t really have that problem… Here since it’s a small town if I said no, they’d understand… it’s about respect.”
The folks at Mama Rosa’s had similar opinions to Sanchez.
“To-go alcohol helped us immensely in the beginning when it was to-go only,” said Jamie Cardamuro owner of Mama Rosa’s. “Because that was a new thing… it was pretty exciting to have a mixed drink to go.”
Mama Rosa’s bartender, Hannah Cole, recalled the business of the to-go times. “It was really busy. It was very hectic… everyone wanted their Mama Rosa’s… we had pull tables out to the side and they would fill up with drinks, food, receipts and such,” she said.
Cardamuro noted the simplicity of the to-go drinks. “When it comes to bottled beer and wine it would be just the same as stopping by the grocery store before heading over to pick up a food order. Being able to sell the bottled drinks to go just makes restaurants a ‘one stop shop.”
The to-go drinks, while still profitable, have dipped in popularity as the state has become more open. “It has died down a bit since people have started to come out to eat… but it still helps with revenue,” said Cardamuro.
With any new law comes speculation and Cardamuro has her worries. “I’m not sure I personally agree with the mixed drinks to-go, because of the risk of drinking and driving,” she said.
Regardless, House Bill 1845 gives more freedom to Virginia restaurants and costumers to serve and enjoy alcohol in the context they prefer.