3 entrepreneurs explain how they pivoted to cocktail kits and to-go spirits to take advantage of changing alcohol laws, serve customers, and keep workers employed

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Takeout cocktail kits at Austin restaurant Loro have helped the restaurant continue business through COVID shutdowns.

The coronavirus pandemic has altered alcohol laws to allow serving drinks to go.
These businesses capitalized on the opportunity, but recommended you familiarize yourself with the law before following suit.
Make sure that you’re offering something unique that patrons couldn’t order elsewhere, and make accessing it easy for the customer.
And consider what your to-go offering could look like after the pandemic ends.
Click here for more BI Prime stories.

In most of the US, walking out of a business with a cocktail in hand is illegal. Or it was, until stay-at-home orders flooded the country and many states relaxed laws in an effort to help save restaurants that were forced to shut down. Now, more than 20 states have given temporary orders allowing businesses to continue serving alcohol, albeit in a different format — and entrepreneurs have jumped on the opportunity.

Three businesses shared their strategies for finding success in switching to to-go service through COVID-19 and beyond.

Understand the law and how to work within it

“Once you understand the laws and what’s legal, then it becomes a little easier for you to decide how you want to approach it,” said Jason Kosmas, beverage director for Loro, an Asian smokehouse and bar in Austin, Texas.

Before COVID-19, alcohol made up nearly 30% of the restaurant’s sales. To recoup some of that loss, Loro is selling cocktail kits that include bottles of fruit juice and other ingredients, pre-diluted and measured to mix with an accompanying bottle of spirits. They’re also serving to-go cups of pre-mixed frozen tonic and lime, paired with a small bottle of gin, for carryout and delivery.

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Liquor laws vary widely between states and even counties. In some states, it’s enough to pour a drink into a cup with a lid and send it out the door, but other states are not as lax, requiring tamper-seal containers and other caveats. Understand what policies are in place where you operate — many ABC boards have released statements and explainers — and build from there.

In Illinois, mixed to-go cocktails remain prohibited. Julia Momose, co-owner of Kumiko, a Japanese-influenced cocktail bar in Chicago’s Fulton River District, is currently selling bottles of wine, sake, gin, vermouth, and more. But the margins on selling bottles is slim, so she retooled her existing spirit-free menu — a selection of blended juices, spices, and more — as something of a cocktail kit option, giving recommendations to customers about what spirits would work well with the nonalcoholic drinks.

Since restaurants shut down, Momose has started an initiative called Cocktails for Hope, which has collected 12,000 signatures on a petition to allow the sale of mixed drinks for carryout, which she said would help keep businesses afloat through COVID-19 and even restore some jobs in the meantime. The project has partnered with State Senator Sara Feigenholtz, who led efforts to legalize happy hours in Illinois.

Offer something distinctive

“You find something familiar and you put an on-brand spin,” stressed Liz Huot, co-owner of Scandinavian-influenced Oskar’s Slider Bar in Louisville, …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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