When The Liquor World Got Better

Two years ago today, my partners Julia Momose, Ian Beacraft, and I succeeded in our movement to legalize cocktails-to-go in Illinois. Through the months of struggle and late-night zoom calls, we succeeded in breaking new ground.

When we proposed cocktails-to-go it was a radical idea that was only available in what people perceived as the anything goes liquor world of Las Vegas or New Orleans.

Many regulators and other concerned individuals indicated that there were too many red flags for cocktails-to-go.  They raised concerns about increased intoxicated drivers and open cocktails delivered to underage kids at a door step near you.

Faced with these concerns, we did what should be done with any regulatory issue, we reworked our ideas, addressed these concerns, drafted legislation and successfully passed legislation.

Two years later, there are very few that would say cocktails-to-go in Illinois hasn’t made the liquor market better.

At the time we passed the legislation, many businesses were on the brink and could not afford to stay open without cocktails-to-go. This program helped many businesses survive. Further, it transformed many businesses, which added a sizable cocktails-to-go portfolio, which has contributed greatly to their bottom line.

But what made the liquor world better is we were able to address regulatory concerns, engage in compromise, and then pass legislation which had strict regulatory protocols, but at the same time allowed business to expand.

Too often in the liquor marketplace, regulatory concerns are raised not to be addressed, but as a way to block access to the marketplace. The other side does not want to engage in a back and forth to address their regulatory concerns and make a system that expands commerce safely.

The result is, shipping markets are closed and innovation in the marketplace is stifled in the name of regulatory concerns. This acts to maintain the old system and keep innovation and capital out of the marketplace. Sadly, it causes liquor markets to innovate and progress slower than other markets.

However, cocktails-to-go is a great lesson for the liquor world, in numerous states people worked together, addressed their concerns, and developed a new market segment. The back and forth of compromise worked and the liquor world got better.

It’s a hope of mine that we can replicate this broadly in the liquor world, I am an optimist that one day the liquor world will get better, because I have seen it happen!