It must be stated that the ILCC does not allow cocktails-to-go and it’s enforcing the policy. However, there is confusion out there among retailers. And two retailers I know specifically got sanctioned.
Problematically, businesses may be inadvertently breaking a law, because there are potentially inconsistent and confusing messages on how to comply.
A bulletin written on March 19th and updated on March 31st, seems to provide that local officials control what can be sold off-premise.
The ILCC states in their bulletin: “Therefore, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission will accept the decision of a local liquor control commission to authorize an On-Premises Only Retailer to sell alcoholic liquor for consumption off the licensed premises. State retail licenses that authorize on-premises only sales will be authorized to sell alcoholic liquor for off-premises consumption if such sales are authorized by the local liquor control commission. ” Illinois Liquor Control Commission COVID-19 Related Action Guidance to Local Liquor Control Commissions for On-Premises Only Retailers, March 19, 2020; Updated March 31, s2020.
Here is the excerpt from their cocktails-to-go bulletin on March 29th: “This bulletin is a reminder that, for reasons stated herein, the Commission has not authorized the sale of premixed cocktails in non-original containers for off-premises consumption.” Illinois Liquor Control Commission COVID-19 Related Action Enforcement Reminder “To-go” Sales and Delivery of Premixed Cocktails, March 29, 2020.
There are conflicting messages, the first message states that the ILCC will accept the decision of the local liquor control commission to authorize the sale of on-premise retailers selling alcohol for off premise consumption. One would presume that in this category (off-premise consumption) is packaged goods and cocktails to go.
The second message is a ban on cocktails-to-go.
A business could get fined and sanctioned by relying on the bulletin updated March 31st (which is the most recent bulletin) and checking with their local government official who tells them that what they are doing is permissible.
Retailers should comply with the ILCC’s rules on cocktails-to-go until the ILCC and its local government specifically allows the practice. I need to caveat my statements by the fact that I am a liquor lawyer and follow these issues closely, so I know where the line is. But for a retailer in these difficult times, it may be hard to understand these pronouncements clearly.
Personally, the best course of action is to allow local governments to decide whether their retailers can sell cocktails-to-go. Local governments are badly in need of revenue. Cocktails-to-go provides needed revenue, maintains the workforce and may even add to it, and the added revenue may prevent restaurants from closing.
Finally, many restaurants and bars are stuck with inventory they can not return to distributors. They need to make their money back on this inventory and cocktails-to-go helps them recoup their cost.
As I stated many times, the ILCC has a difficult job and is doing the best they can. Being a regulator in the liquor industry is never easy and it is especially difficult during this time.
But we also must remember restaurants are facing a Do-or-Die situation and in these circumstances we need to serve them the best policy!