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To-go cocktails are here to stay in R.I. (at least until March 2022)

Rhode Island lawmakers approved legislation that extend restaurants’ ability to sell alcohol with to go. “Our restaurants are in desperate need of every cent that comes their way,” said one lawmaker

To go cocktailsUNI Boston

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island lawmakers Wednesday approved legislation that will allow restaurants to sell to-go cocktails until March 1, 2022.

The joint legislation, which was sponsored by Senator Hanna M. Gallo and Representative Jacquelyn Baginski, both Cranston Democrats, will allow restaurants to sell up to two 750 milliliter bottles of wine, 72 ounces of a mixed-wine drink, 144 ounces of beer, and mixed drinks with no more than nine ounces of distilled spirits.

All drinks must be sold in factory-sealed containers or containers that are sealed in such a way as to make it very evident that the container has been reopened.

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After the vote in the House Wednesday night, Baginski said that while COVID-19 restrictions for most businesses in Rhode Island have lifted, the restaurant industry continues to suffer from the economic impact of the last year and a half.

“Our restaurants are in desperate need of every cent that comes their way,” said Baginski.

“The restaurant and hospitality industry has been battered by the economic effects of the pandemic, and is now facing another struggle in the shape of an employee shortage. We need this industry — which includes so many treasured small businesses that make Rhode Island the special place that is — to survive the pandemic,” said Gallo.

Dale Venturini, the president and chief executive of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, told the Globe Wednesday that alcohol to-go has been a “much-needed source of revenue” for the state’s restaurants over the course of the pandemic and that the extension is a “welcome development” for the industry.

The bill applies only to take-out orders, not delivery. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

Liquor stores have been the largest opponent of the legislation becoming permanent, but lawmakers in 14 states and Washington D.C. have approved measures to allow restaurants to sell cocktails with take-out permanently.

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Venturini added that she’s “hopeful that permanent legislation will be passed in the near future” in Rhode Island.


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.