Albemarle County police offer guidance on driving home with to-go cocktails

Albemarle County police offer guidance on driving home with to go cocktails

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - While people are now free to get out of the house and go out to eat, with some restrictions still in place during Phase One of Virginia’s reopening, restaurants are still seeing business from to-go orders, especially those that include cocktails. Getting those drinks to go is perfectly legal but following advice from police about where you put them in your car can make a big difference.

Senior Officer Katherine Kane is a five-time winner of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Law Enforcement awards. She, along with other officers with the Albemarle County Police Department, says now that more people are driving home with mixed cocktails, there are extra steps those selling and those consuming alcohol should take to keep everyone on the road safe.

"If they are stopped by a police officer and the officer smells alcohol, the officer has a right to ask the driver to step out and talk to them about it,” Kay said.

“It’d be great if you had like a cooler in the rear of your vehicle, and that way you’re definitely separated from that beverage and it’s in no way distracting you from your ability to drive,” David Huffman, a police officer with Albemarle County, said.

John Sandhofer, with the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, says while there are several rules in place, like a limit on the size and number of cocktails going out for each order, ABC is trying to help these businesses keep operating.

"We know a lot of them are struggling right now. The ability to sell alcohol has a lot to do with the revenue that they make,” Sandhofer said. "We didn’t want to expect them to have to go out and make purchases of lids that didn’t have holes in them and that kind of stuff they could use stock they had for to-go orders, but we said you place tape over it, or a sticker or something like that makes that hole inoperable”.

In addition to making the containers sealed in some way, ABC has put a limit on the number of to-go cocktails that can be purchased with an order of food. For each meal ordered, two 16-ounce cocktails can be served in individual containers. A maximum of four 16-ounce cocktails may be purchased per takeout order or delivery address.

Cocktails To Go FAQs from ABC

As of April 10, 2020

I only have to go cup lids with holes. Can I use them?If a lid has a straw hole or sipping hole, the lid may be used if any hole(s) are completely covered and rendered inoperable. For example, a licensee could place a sticker or tape over the holes making it a solid lid. This is similar for a lid that is difficult to secure and the licensee can secure the lid with tape. A second option would be to wrap the entire lid and cup in a plastic wrap that creates a solid top and secure lid.

Does happy hour pricing still apply (no discounting after 9 p.m.)?Yes, no discounts permitted after 9 p.m.

Can a restaurant come out with new pricing (ex. $5 mixed drinks or cocktails all day for the next month)?A mixed beverage licensee could have a price for “to go” cocktails that is different than the regular menu price during this temporary privilege as long as the discount is not below cost and there is no advertising that entices illegal actions like intoxication or underage consumption. All other advertising regulations apply. The “to go” cocktail price would have to be the same at all times or the discounted price would have to end at 9 p.m.

Can I sell a pitcher of margaritas if it contains a maximum of four drinks?No. For each meal ordered, the restaurant may sell two cocktails in individual 16-ounce containers. A maximum of four 16-ounce cocktails may be purchased assuming two meals were ordered. Sales of “to go” pitchers, no matter what the size, are not permitted.

What is meant by “maximum combined volume not to exceed 16 ounces” in your guidance document?All contents of the cocktail or mixed drink must be 16 ounces or less. This includes ice, but there is no requirement for a cocktail or drink to be served with ice. The customer could add ice at their home.

Can a customer bring their own container to the restaurant such as a mini growler or water bottle that has a screw top and no sip top?No, all cocktails and mixed drinks must be served in a container provided by the licensee.

What age is required for the delivery driver of mixed drinks or cocktails?The delivery driver must be at least 21 years old.

Can a restaurant sell a sealed ready-to-drink canned cocktail that does not qualify as a low alcohol beverage cooler (meaning, a drink containing one-half of 1% or more of alcohol by volume, but no more than 7.5% alcohol by volume)?No. Restaurants cannot sell mixed beverages to go, for carry out or delivery in their original container.

Can a restaurant sell 50ml bottles (minis) of spirits to go, for carry out or delivery?No.

Can we sell a shot of just spirits or a pour of just spirits on the rocks?No. All cocktails or mixed drinks must contain one mixer and must be served with the ingredients (spirits and mixer) combined.

Can I break up takeout and delivery orders into separate orders to increase the amount of cocktails or mixed drinks that can be sold to individuals?No. The maximum four cocktails for restaurants and two mixed drinks for distilleries per order applies to per vehicle pick-up and/or per delivery address.

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