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Florida passes bill making to-go cocktails permanent

Drinks have to be sealed and 32 ounces or less
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Posted at 5:06 PM, Apr 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 17:49:37-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.  — Tampa Bay area bar and restaurant owners are thrilled. A change allowing to-go cocktails during the pandemic will soon become permanent.

The switch is expected to help local businesses rebound from a year that nearly cost them their livelihoods.

Jarrett Sabatini, the owner of Intermezzo Coffee and Cocktails on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, says the to-go drinks helped to keep revenue up during the time when businesses were only allowed to do take-out orders.

“Now, we’ll make any cocktail on our menu to go. We do a lot of the classic cocktails because that’s what people want but we’ll make anything for people,” he said, while shaking up a drink Thursday.

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Sabatini has become quite the mixologist. He spent the past year finding creative ways to survive the pandemic and says he was one of the first businesses in St. Pete to offer to go cocktails.

“People were messaging us on social media and asking for cocktails to go, so we jumped on board,” he elaborated. “When we first launched it, it was really out of necessity and the only way to get an income in when we were shut down so everything was to go but it was surprising how successful it was.”

The Florida Senate passed a bill Wednesday giving the green light to restaurants and bars to sell to-go beer, wine and cocktails in sealed 32-ounce or smaller containers. Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill soon which will make to-go cocktails permanent starting July 1.

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It’s not just a trend we’re seeing in Florida. During the pandemic, 30 states started allowing to-go cocktails and at least 3 states (Ohio, Kentucky and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia have now made the change permanent.

Business owners tell ABC Action News that it comes at a perfect time, as bars and restaurants welcome customers back but also try to appeal to those still uneasy about dining in.

“This year has been strong. People are out. We’ve added outdoor seating and everything we can do to make people feel comfortable,” Sabatini said.

As people start to feel more comfortable, Tampa Bay’s downtown areas are once again feeling vibrant.

Noel Rochford, a local musician who lives in St. Petersburg said it’s reassuring to see.

“Watching the city come back to life has been pretty much the highlight of this whole past year for me,” he added.