PORTLAND, Maine — Editor's note: The video attached to this story was published on Aug. 9, 2020.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed legislation on March 25 that extends the sale of to-go cocktails through March 30, 2025.
To-go cocktails gained popularity nationwide during the pandemic when restaurants and bars were shut down. In March 2020, an executive order issued by Mills permitted restaurants to sell and deliver beverages so long as they were accompanied by food and distilleries to sell liquor without food, according to a report by NEWS CENTER Maine.
Mills ordered bars and restaurants to close dining rooms on March 18, 2020. Many COVID-related restrictions have been lifted, but diners haven't returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Melanie Roy, front-of-the-house manager of Sonder and Dram in Lewiston, said the to-go cocktails had been a success since the program started.
"We've noticed that people who aren't comfortable being out in public or would rather be home can still enjoy what we do here but in the comforts of their own home," Roy said. "We definitely see positivity that would result in that [program] continuing."
Roy said the cocktail bar faced upfront costs back in 2020 to get the supplies for to-go orders going, including the purchase of containers, labels, [and] seals, but Sonder and Dram transitioned in stride.
"I don't think it would hinder our business in any way if we kept going," Roy said of to-go orders.
Maggie Sullivan, bar manager at 11 Central in Bangor, told NEWS CENTER Maine this program has been very successful at the restaurant.
"Our whole to-go program has been very busy since COVID. We've definitely had a lot more to-go orders in general, and we have a lot of people who love our specialty cocktails that we make in-house, so people love to be able to grab a drink or two to go," Sullivan said. "It's definitely been lucrative for us."
According to a news release issued by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, more than 35 states allowed the sale of to-go cocktails during the pandemic. Since then, 18 states and D.C. made the sales permanent, and 14 other states passed legislation to allow the program to continue.
"The extension of cocktails to-go in the state will provide much-needed stability, as local restaurants, bars, and distilleries work to get back on their feet," Jay Hibbard, vice president of state government relations with the Distilled Spirits Council, said in the release. "We applaud the Legislature and Gov. Mills for supporting Maine's hospitality business."