On May 13, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 148, which allows restaurants or other alcohol beverage vendors to sell alcoholic drinks to-go. No, this does not mean that Florida is an open container state; possession of an open alcoholic container in Florida is still illegal under Florida Statutes, section 316.1936 and 856.011. However, customers who want to order take-out from their favorite restaurant can now also bring home their favorite cocktail, providing the restaurant meets certain requirements.
The alcoholic drinks to-go initially started through one of DeSantis’s emergency orders as a way for struggling restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic to increase their sales. “Alcoholic drinks to-go became an important source of revenue for restaurants that were trying to survive during the pandemic,” DeSantis noted. Throughout the pandemic, restaurants were some of Florida’s businesses that were most affected. Florida Representative Josie Tomkow stated, however, that the new law
allows for restaurants to continue to offer alcohol-to-go as an option. This pro-consumer, business-friendly bill will help support our restaurant industry and its tens of thousands of employees.”
In order to qualify to sell alcoholic beverages to-go, restaurants or other vendors must meet certain requirements. For example, the restaurant or vendor must hold a public food service license, have at least 2,500 square-feet of dining area, maintain a minimum capacity of at least 150 people, and must receive 51 percent of their revenue from food and non-alcoholic beverages. The drinks sold cannot be larger than 32 ounces, must be placed in a sealed container, and the sale of the alcoholic beverage must accompany the sale of food within the same order. The vendor must also verify that the recipient of the to-go drink is at least 21 years old at the time of delivery.
The law also places some responsibility on the consumer of the to-go beverage. For example, if the customer transports the alcohol in a motor vehicle, the drinks must be placed in locked compartments, vehicle trunks, or areas behind the last upright seats in vehicles.
This law officially becomes effective July 1, 2021. Restaurants or other vendors that wish to take advantage of this new law are encouraged to read the bill in its entirety to ensure compliance.