To-go cocktails are nice, but no savior

To-go cocktails are nice, but no savior

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

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This week, Governor Cooper extended the sale of cocktails to go until at least March 31. This is a way, he said, to support local restaurants and bars. We checked in with a few business to see if this measure really is helping.

Zoom out: Since last spring, the state has imposed a number of restrictions on restaurants and bars, all to limit the spread of COVID-19.

  • Currently, restaurants in North Carolina can operate at 50%. Bars can only serve patrons outside.
  • The sale of alcohol onsite has to end at 9 p.m.
  • Cooper began allowing bars and restaurants to sell cocktails to-go in December.

What it means: The allowance of cocktails to-go doesn’t seem to be a lifesaver for restaurants/bars in Charlotte, nor a major new revenue source. Rather, it’s a way to help offset, even incrementally, the loss of sales that restaurants and bars are experiencing.

“It’s not going to save restaurants alone, but if it can double a ticket price on one order, that’s a good thing,” said Lynn Minges, president and CEO of the N.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association.

Jon Dressler has been selling to-go cocktails at most of his restaurants, including Dogwood, Porter’s House, Fin & Fino, Dressler’s at the Metropolitan. Dressler says customers have enjoyed still having their “creature comforts” of going to a restaurant even if they’re ordering takeout.

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  • To-go cocktails’ impact on sales has been “moderate,” Dressler said. “It’s certainly not going to be a great elixir.”

Stefan Huebner of Dot Dot Dot says that benefit of to-go cocktails is limited because each customer can only order one. “This will not save anyone’s business,” Huebner said of the measure.

  • For Dot Dot Dot, the state’s 10 p.m. curfew has hurt because it’s meant a loss of two hours of sales.
  • Most cocktails to-go are sold at last call, Huebner said. This way customers get a quality drink to take home.

Paul Verica also said that the limit of one drink per customer hinders the effectiveness of the to-go cocktail program at The Stanley. He’s told multiple customers calling in for a takeout order that if they want four cocktails, they must have four people over 21 come in to pick up the order.

  • Verica says he has spent more on supplies and marketing for to-go cocktails than he’s made in sales.
  • “It was a nice token but it really didn’t help,” Verica said.

 

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