To-go cocktails, a COVID-era innovation, probably won’t disappear in Colorado


    A line of liquor bottles behind the bar of the Briar Common Brewery & Eatery in Denver on Jan. 7, 2021. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)

    It looks like beer, wine and cocktails to-go are here to stay a while in Colorado — until 2026, at least.

    After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Colorado lawmakers passed a law allowing businesses licensed to serve alcohol on their premises to also offer drinks for takeout and delivery.

    That policy was set to expire on July 1, 2021, but a bipartisan bill that passed in the Senate on May 26 would modify and extend it. Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, is likely to sign House Bill 21-1027, which counts Reps. Colin Larson, R-Littleton, and Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, along with Sens. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, and Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, as sponsors.

    “The public has enjoyed the policy change, and it’s only for five years,” Priola said on the Senate floor May 25. “It will help restaurants get back on their feet after this, being shut down for 12 months. Critical to our economy.”

    Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, offered an amendment to limit the hours when food and drink establishments could sell alcoholic drinks to-go or for delivery.

    “Liquor stores are only allowed to sell alcohol between the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight, and the same guardrails should apply to alcohol being consumed off-premises,” Garcia argued. Senate lawmakers approved the change over the objections of bill sponsors.

    Under HB-1027, most Colorado bars and restaurants would be able to sell to-go and delivery drinks through June 30, 2026. Beer, wine or liquor manufacturers with a retail space could only offer delivery through Jan. 2, 2022.

    HB-1027 would also increase the volume of alcohol that bars and restaurants could sell for off-premises consumption. While the 2020 law allowed up to 750 milliliters of wine, for example, the updated legislation would increase that to 1.5 liters.

    Another provision of the bill could give diners more drink options in areas where multiple bars and restaurants are located within 1,000 feet of one another. It would allow local governments and the state to license “communal outdoor dining areas,” where bars and restaurants could serve alcohol to people seated outside in a shared zone.