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Cocktails To-Go, Extended Outdoor Dining No Longer Allowed In Pennsylvania, Blindsiding Business Owners

HAVERTOWN, Pa. (CBS) -- Cocktails to-go is a no-go in Pennsylvania. Restaurants were given the green light to sell mixed drinks to-go and offer outdoor seating during the pandemic. But as of Tuesday, that is no longer allowed. Many restaurant and bar owners have been blindsided by this development.

How enforcement will take place is still unclear. Like all other pandemic measures, this hit many businesses suddenly.

During the height of pandemic closures, the ability to sell to-go cocktails was critical to businesses like Brick and Brew.

"We were getting growlers, 64-ounce to-go cocktails, mason jars of cocktails. We revamped our whole cocktail menu just to accommodate it," said Randy Berman, lead bartender at Brick and Brew.

Act 21 signed by the governor in May of 2020 gave liquor license-holding businesses the ability to sell these to-go mixed drinks as a form of COVID relief.

But it was temporary and set to expire after the governor's COVID disaster emergency ended.

With election results now certified and the governor's powers over emergency declarations reduced by voters, the ability to extend these measures rests with the legislature.

House Bill 1154 sought to extend both outdoor dining and make permanent to-go cocktails, but after amendments were added, the bill stalled Tuesday.

According to an email from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to businesses, that meant a return to pre-pandemic regulations effective immediately.

"Essentially, if you are a licensed restaurant or a tavern with an 'R' or an 'H' license, you are no longer allowed to sell cocktails to-go. Also, that temporary outdoor seating that you were permitted you just lost that as well," said Chuck Moran, executive director of Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Associaton.

For some Pennsylvania businesses, creating outdoor dining space and to-go drink operations was an investment that cost thousands.

"If they are using that temporary outdoor extension license they can't do that tonight. They can't do it tomorrow," Moran said.

At Brick and Brew, they are glad to once again do mostly all of their business in-house, but ...

"There's still a large portion that aren't ready yet and to-go cocktails helped them feel normal again and helped them back home," Berman said.

In an email from Gov. Tom Wolf's office, he pointed to an amendment that has to do with ready-to-drink canned beverages as to why Bill 1154 has not moved forward.

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