TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - For some struggling restaurants, selling alcoholic drinks to-go has been a lifeline during the pandemic. The governor started allowing it last March and now some lawmakers are trying to make it permanent.
"We sell sangria in a little wonton soup container to-go and it's become so popular that we'll probably never get rid of it," Lala's Sangria Bar owner John English said.
English opened four months before the pandemic. In March of last year, they were forced to shut down for 10 days before the Governor started allowing restaurants to sell drinks to go.
"It's a huge lifeline. There isn't a lot of profit margin in food. Most of your profit margin comes from liquor so to be able to sell that was amazing and I think the neighborhood appreciated it also," English said.
It's why some lawmakers now want to make it permanent. If passed, Senate Bill 148 would allow restaurants to sell drinks with liquor to-go so long as they meet certain requirements.
To be eligible, food sales must make up at least 51% of the establishment's revenues. Also, drinks can be no larger than 32 ounces and drivers must keep beverages out-of-reach while behind the wheel.
"Behaviors of consumers are forever going to change and I think restaurants in order to adapt and survive I think a lot more are going to do the to-go type format," Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) said.
Tuesday, the Senate Regulated Industries Committee became the first legislative panel to support the proposal. Last September, Governor DeSantis made it clear he also backs the idea. English is hopeful it'll pass.
"It's going to be a long time before anyone comes out of this and that would be a lifeline just like it was, in the beginning, to allow us to continue to come out of it," English said.
There hasn't been much public opposition to the measure.
FOX 13 reached out to a MADD spokesperson who tells us the organization is relying on law enforcement to enforce open container laws.
As for the bill, the Senate committee passed it with a unanimous vote of 9 to 0. It will continue to make its way through the legislative process. If passed, it would go into effect in July 2021.