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D.C. Restaurants Get the OK to Deliver Alcohol During Coronavirus Pandemic

An emergency relief bill approves to-go sealed containers

A stock image of beer bottles
A stock image of beer bottles

D.C. government aimed to fortify beleaguered restaurants Tuesday as part of an emergency relief bill that allows them add wine, beer, and spirits to takeout and delivery orders while the city enforces a dine-in ban to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus. The D.C. Council passed the bill Tuesday afternoon, and Mayor Muriel Bowser signed it into law that night.

The bill stipulates that every alcohol order has to be packaged in a sealed container and must include at least one prepared food item, so home-bound residents can’t rely on restaurants to delivery solely suds or Sauvignon blanc. Prepared food has to be assembled by the restaurant, so bags of chips don’t count.

Restaurants also have to get written authorization from the city’s liquor authority, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, to start package wine and beer for in-home customers. ABRA has mandated that alcohol orders can be fulfilled from 7 a.m. to midnight. ABRA has provided an FAQ here.

Places that already have liquor licenses do not have to file an additional application. they can fill out an online form that requires them to agree to ABRA standards, like that a person 18 or older will make alcohol deliveries, and receive an automated response that they’ve registered. ABRA has 19 full-time investigators that will be out checking compliance.

Among other benefits to businesses and workers, the Council’s emergency relief package includes extending unemployment insurance to people who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, blocks evictions, and prohibits utilities from being shut off.

Updated: Wednesday, March 18, 8 a.m. This post has been updated to reflect the mayor signed the bill into law