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Opinion: To help save Colorado restaurants, we need another round of alcohol to go

It won't make up for all the lost revenue from the last year, but it will give restaurants a much-needed boost to keep moving towards recovery.

Teocalli Cocina bartender Tim Knight prepares a to-go cocktail on June 3, 2020. The Lafayette, Colorado, restaurant reopened to in-person dining on May 27, but continued doing brisk business with curbside pickup of food and drinks. Alcoholic beverages are served in plastic or paper cups with a lid and a Colorado Department of Revenue "seal" taped on that warns purchasers that opening the mixed drink in the car is illegal. (Dana Coffield, The Colorado Sun)

Over the past 15 months, Coloradans have experienced many things that we never could have imagined prior: a global pandemic, the shutdown and closure of scores of beloved local businesses, remote schooling for countless children, and so much more. 

Colorado restaurants have been severely impacted between the spring and winter 2020 indoor-dining shutdowns and the near-constant pandemic restriction changes that have altered the way these businesses operate time and again.

Sonia Riggs

Centennial State restaurants collectively lost $3 billion in revenue in 2020. (This is typically a $14.5 billion industry annually that employed 10% of the state’s workforce before the pandemic.)

Thankfully, many Colorado restaurant workers are now vaccinated; restaurant capacity restrictions for indoor dining are gone; and the industry is on a path to recovery. 

But don’t be misled: A full recovery could take some time — as much as three to five years, at least.

Last spring, Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order authorizing the sale of alcohol beverages to go. But that order was scheduled to expire this summer.

The state legislature is currently considering House Bill 1027, a measure that would extend this practice for another five years, giving a huge boost to an industry that has struggled so much and overcome so many challenges.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Colorado restaurants have shown incredible resiliency and creativity as they have dealt with the constantly moving targets of public health orders and government mandates — and customers have been right there with their favorite eateries, ordering creative cocktails, bottles of wine, and cans of beer to go with their takeout food orders. 

Alcohol to go is very popular with voters across our state, too; 85% of Coloradans over age 21 support the effort and the Colorado House of Representatives voted unanimously in favor of the extension, which is now before the state Senate. Coloradans love being able to pair their takeout with a favorite cocktail or Colorado-made brew.

Restaurants stand at the heart of our communities, forming the backdrop to some of life’s greatest moments. While selling alcohol beverages to go will not make up for all the lost revenue from the last year, it will give restaurants a much-needed boost to keep moving towards recovery. 

Many restaurants had to permanently close their doors last year, and even now, many owners are facing the possibility of having to close their doors without some measure of certainty for their businesses. 

This extension of alcohol to go would give those business owners the confidence to stay the course and be here for us all on the other side of this pandemic.

Please join me in supporting the passage of the alcohol-to-go legislation, HB 1027. Contact your state senator today to express your support and help your favorite restaurants come out of this pandemic from a position of strength.


Sonia Riggs is the president and CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association.


The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggest writers or give feedback at opinion@coloradosun.com.