Michigan lawmakers say cheers to carry-out cocktails at restaurants, bars

Emma Dale
Detroit Free Press

Pretty soon Michiganders ordering carry-outs not only will be able to pick up their favorite meals but their favorite alcoholic drinks, too.

On Wednesday, the Legislature OK’d cocktails-to-go to boost businesses in Michigan that have suffered financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation allows people to purchase cocktails from bars and restaurants via pick-up or delivery through 2025. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign the bill.

The bill also includes a temporary cut in state liquor prices that will help businesses that have suffered a loss due to coronavirus.

The bill, HB 5781, sponsored by Rep. Michael Webber, R-Rochester Hills, also would allow for "social districts," approved by local governments, where a group of bars or restaurants would be able to sell alcoholic drinks that could be consumed within a designated geographic area of the city.

The state already lets bars and restaurants sell unopened beer and wine to go. But cocktails are the main specialty for some establishments, like BESA, located at 600 Woodward Ave. in downtown Detroit. Gerti Begaj, managing partner at BESA, said they were thrilled to hear about the bill's passage. 

“We’re actually super excited to be able to do that,” Begaj said. “Cocktails are a big part of our establishment in general. We have a huge wine selection, however, the Detroit crowd really loves cocktails and we’re excited to be able to share those with our guests.”

Begaj said BESA will be ordering machinery that will help properly seal cups that will contain to-go order drinks, to ensure safety and it being able to only open when at home or in an appropriate setting. Their drink menu will not change or be limited for to-go orders, Begaj said.

They are hoping to begin the take-out drink service in about 10 to 14 days, he added.

For Mootz Pizzeria and Bar, located at 1230 Library St. in Detroit, manager Lisa Walters said she’s excited to be able to serve those who still want local food and drinks but aren’t comfortable dining in yet.

“We’re very excited about (the bill) passing," she said. "Any option we can give the customers to enjoy life without being scared to go into a restaurant right now."

Mootz Pizzeria and Bar has been offering takeout and delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be officially opening their dining room on Thursday, Walters said.

As for how they will operate serving the drinks, Walters said they are currently exploring options for self-sealing cups and what their vendors are able to offer. They want to begin the take-out drink service in about a month, Walters said. 

The pizzeria currently has beer and wine available for takeout. The dine-in cocktail menu will stay the same, Walters said, but she isn’t sure what will be available for takeout drinks yet. 

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“We kind of want to gauge it — it hasn’t been super popular for just beer and wine,” she said. “We want to gauge how it’s received by customers first before offering everything.”