I was once a radical and then the world changed
During March 2020, I got a call from Julia Momose, one of the preeminent mixologists in America and the owner of Kumiko, a place famous for world renowned cocktails. Like many restaurants she was hit out of the blue by COVID. She wanted to bring in the necessary income to help her business survive, and do things the right way by being 100% compliant with the law.
During our phone conversation we decided to take the step towards radicalism, we proposed to start a movement to make cocktails-to-go legal. This radical idea was necessary because her business, famous for cocktails, was not able to serve cocktails to people that could not leave their homes because of COVID.
Entering the picture to join this radical fringe was Ian Beacraft, a marketing and branding guru, who introduced me to the concept of Zoom meetings.
In the beginning part of our journey, only a couple of states allowed cocktails-to-go. The whole concept of someone picking up a cocktail and transporting it in a vehicle was thought of as radical and dangerous.
It was thought of as too unsafe and if it would become legal, would lead to drunk driving accidents and minors getting their hands on alcohol.
When we first proposed the idea to the executive branch in Illinois, we were shot down initially. We tried for a month to obtain a temporary executive order allowing cocktails-to-go during the pandemic or for a specific period of time. And again, we were shot down. This radical fringe stuff was becoming very difficult and the loses mounted and the hill got bigger. Even a pandemic could not shift the sands in this fight!
But we were a determined radical fringe and off we went to win the heart and minds of the legislature. Through a grass roots effort of determined folks, restaurants, bars, and supporters of the hospitality industry, and even supporters, like my old high school friend Larry Wojciechowski, we began to rally support. The radical fringe was growing to a popular uprising in the liquor world. This determined group engaged everyone it could.
In the end, it was a rousing success and a bill to legalize cocktails-to-go to in Illinois passed the House and Senate by a combined vote of 160-6. By June 2nd, the measure was signed into law by the governor.
So it begs the question, how does a concept thought of as too radical three months before, all the sudden become law with a resounding margin?
Simple, the world changed, cocktails-to-go became a necessity for some businesses to survive and people don’t want their friends to go out of business. The legislature decided that the viability of businesses outweighed the perceived regulatory risk.
The liquor world moves at a snail’s pace and changes to the system, even those that benefit consumers are met with resistance and theoretical reasoning of why something should not become legal. The liquor industry, unlike every other industry, seems immune to the benefits of opening up markets, and likes to live in the staid past.
The arguments that for so long kept cocktails-to-go from becoming legal, did not seem as steadfast when they were looked at closely. But we should not become too complacent as theoretical resistance has started to grow.
Today, the world is different and when Arizona made cocktails-to-go permanent, it marked the 13th state to do so. When it is all said and done, there will be over 20 states legalizing cocktails-to-go in one form or another. Cocktails-to-go is now a mainstream concept, wow what a difference a year makes!
And today, I am no longer a radical, the world has changed and for the better. Please enjoy your cocktail-to-go and remember it was a hard-fought battle to legalize this privilege.