Bill supports outdoor seating, to-go alcohol sales

Removal of sunset provisions would benefit hospitality industry
January 13, 2022

Outdoor restaurant seating and to-go cocktails – two enjoyable outcomes of the COVID pandemic – could become permanent under a bill introduced at the beginning of this year’s legislative session.

Sponsored by Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, and in the Senate by Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, House Bill 290 would remove a sunset provision from a policy that has allowed bars and restaurants to sell to-go alcoholic beverages and offer extended outdoor seating. The temporary arrangement allowed customers to support their favorite food and drink establishments during pandemic restrictions, but the policy is set to expire at the end of March unless the sunset clause is removed. Under HB 290, any restaurant, brewpub, tavern, or taproom, or other entity with a valid on-premise license could sell alcoholic beverages for takeout, curbside, or drive-through service. 

“While the pandemic has been extremely challenging for families and businesses across the state and country, it also has forced us to get creative at times. Restaurants and bars were among the hardest-hit industries these past two years, and we had to use some ingenuity to provide assistance,” Schwartzkopf said. “The outdoor dining and to-go cocktails options have been extremely popular, and have allowed restaurants and bars to serve patrons safely. These innovations are about to expire, but even as this health crisis continues, it’s clear that there is a market and a desire for these practices to continue for good.” 

In 2019, officials said, restaurant and food industry jobs in Delaware totaled 50,800. Between February and April 2020, Delaware lost 66 percent of its food or drink establishment jobs, one of the highest rates in the nation. 

“This important bipartisan legislation enables our local restaurants to focus on what they do best: serving customers and increasing the positive economic impact made on our local communities,” Lopez said. “Too often, some in government have arbitrarily told businesses what they can’t do. This approach must stop. With this bill, we listened to our restaurant owners and worked together to address concerns. This legislation exemplifies the type of meaningful public policy that expands economic growth and supports local businesses that Speaker Schwartzkopf and I will continue to advance during this session of the General Assembly.” 

HB 290 was moved out of the House Administration Committee Jan. 11, and awaits action in the House Jan. 13. 

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