One thousand times this: “American liquor laws are pretty stupid. And the COVID-19 pandemic gives us a once in a century chance to change them.”

Photo credit: The Atlantic.

A pandemic is awful, and it’s also an awfully good time to make common-sense reforms.

As a preface, frequent readers will recall that I’m a hardcore atheist. This said, thank God for Andy Crouch. For a very long time he’s been one of my favorite beer writers. Right now, I’d vote for him over Trump or Biden.

Quite literally I’ve been saying this for DECADES.

The Case for Public Drinking, by Andy Crouch (Beer Edge)

America has long relegated the consumption of alcohol to bars and restaurants. In doing so, localities have further sought to control the public’s ability to consume alcohol under stringent liquor laws. Many states and cities limit the number of alcohol sale licenses, causing an artificial and inflated market for their value. Each year, the bar, restaurant, or brewery pays a few hundred or thousands of dollars in these markets to renew their licenses, paying the fees directly to the city or state. If you want to open a new establishment in an area that has hit its limit on licenses, you either have to contemplate not serving booze—something that is rarely tenable in major markets—or you have to buy someone else’s license.

This governmental created scarcity causes the value of liquor licenses to skyrocket, often going for hundreds of thousands of dollars on the open market. And none of this profit goes to the city or state, only into the pockets of private companies and owners.


As much as I would like to sit arm to arm with a complete stranger at a local bar, casually discussing local events or the weather, it’s going to be a long time before most people feel comfortable doing that.

Until we’re able to return to that kind of normalcy, assuming it can return, local and state governments should continue the creative thinking they’ve developed during the pandemic response and contemplate allowing breweries or bars to operate beer gardens in large, outdoor public settings and to relax local laws governing open containers.

With the weather improving, people want to get together while still being able to maintain proper physical distancing. Beer gardens satisfy a long suppressed hunger for open-air forums of public fun. The public should be allowed to enjoy some communality and conviviality, fresh air, and a beer or two all in the company of good friends and their restorative laughter.

The restaurant industry press has noticed, too (thanks, W) …

Restaurants profit from looser alcohol regulations during coronavirus pandemic, by Bret Thorn (Nation’s Restaurant News)

With to-go beer, wine and cocktail sales thriving, will states revise rules on booze delivery, takeout and curbside pickup permanently?

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country, many state liquor authorities displayed uncharacteristic flexibility in loosening their regulations, allowing many restaurants to sell beer, wine, spirits and cocktails for takeout and delivery for the first time in an attempt to help those businesses survive.

Restaurateurs responded with alacrity, developing bottled cocktails and cocktail kits, launching wine discounts or even reducing their inventory of premium spirits in order to manage cash flow better.

And even as state restrictions are being lifted and restaurants gradually reopen for dine-in, many operators are hoping the added revenue stream of to-go alcohol will remain in place permanently — or at least longer into what is expected to be a slow recovery.

… as has journalists covering food and drink from the consumer’s end of them.

Liquor Laws Loosen Up in the Face of Delivery-Only Dining, by Caleb Pershan (Eater)

Some states are letting restaurants turn to takeout booze to make up for lost profits

If all goes well with temporarily relaxed liquor laws, waivers could very well be extended, and conceivably made permanent. “The best case is people figure out how to do this well, and realize they could have done it lawfully this whole time… A lot of [restaurants] who might just never have thought of it might find that the condo across the street will buy $20 or $30 bottles of wine with carryout.”