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Washington Relaxes Some Rules for Takeout Booze, But Still Won’t Allow To-Go Cocktails

The state will temporarily allow all restaurants with a liquor license to serve beer, wine, and spirits for takeout and delivery, with the purchase of food

A row of liquor bottles, backlit on a shelf at a bar.
Washington State has relaxed its rules to allow to-go liquor, beer, and wine sales.

As Seattle’s restaurants and bars continue to face huge financial hurdles in the wake of the state’s temporary ban on in-person dining and stay at home order, a new announcement from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) may add additional options. On Tuesday, the board notified establishments that all restaurants that hold a spirits, beer, and wine license could temporarily sell closed factory-sealed bottles of liquor and wine for takeout or delivery, as well as beer in growlers, jugs, and other sealed containers — as long as they are accompanied by food.

While breweries, wineries, and some restaurants were already allowed to serve to-go beer in sealed containers and bottles of wine before this announcement, they needed to have a specific endorsement on their license (which cost $240). This expands the rules a bit. Now any restaurant with a liquor license can sell booze for curbside pickup or delivery without that endorsement, as long as spirits or wine sold are in factory-sealed containers and accompanied by a food order. Beer can be sold in sealed growlers or jugs.

With alcohol representing 20 to 30 percent of restaurant sales, this change is intended to give some struggling businesses more leeway if they want to hawk, say, bottles of wine or vodka with takeout orders. But the new allowance still does not permit the sale of to-go or delivery cocktails, which several other states have permitted in the wake of similar in-house dining bans.

That doesn’t sit well with some restaurant and bar owners. Renowned Seattle bar Canon tweeted out a plea Wednesday for to-go cocktail orders: “Please follow the lead of NY, CA, and DC and help us!”

Chris Cvetkovich, who owns Capitol Hill restaurant Nue with his wife, Uyen Nguyen, echoes the sentiment. “Restricting restaurants from selling their craft cocktails completely removes any competitive edge and identity we’ve worked so damn hard to build. As the ruling stands, the only spirits we can sell are the exact same bottles people can buy at the grocery store, most likely for less money,” Cvetkovich says. “I’m just not sure how much of an advantage this right to sell is going to be.”

The allowance in effect for the duration of the stay at home order (April 6). When Eater Seattle asked Gov. Inslee’s office whether the rules would ever be relaxed for to-go cocktails, a spokesperson said, “I do not expect bars or restaurants to be allowed to serve sealed containers of mixed alcohol drinks for takeout.”