Originally, this was going to be about whether or not we as a society should be ordering delivery at all during the COVID-19 pandemic.  On one hand, the restaurant industry is on the brink of collapse. With many large metropolitan areas shutting down dine-in restaurants entirely, the only way restaurants can hope to stay afloat is to rely on take-out and delivery orders.  The “on the other hand” was going to be, at best, claiming that exposing delivery persons to all the potential threats that you’re comfortably “self-quarantining” away from is a bit of a dick move and, at worse, likened delivery persons to plague-infested rats.  But ultimately, ordering delivery turns out to be safer from a social distancing standpoint, and most of the big delivery services are offering some form of paid sick leave.  Just make sure to tip handsomely.  

(Also, don’t forget to be wary of how much said big delivery services might be skimming from restaurant’s profits.)

But enough about what could have been, there’s been another, more interesting development in the realm of delivery.  From New York to California, laws against the sales of alcoholic beverages for consumption off-premises have been (temporarily) lifted. In other words, cocktails can now be delivered right to your door.

This move seems like a no-brainer for making sure restaurants can stay in business.  After all, alcohol sales can make up up to 30% of a restaurant’s revenue.

However, there are some challenges that come along with this.  Most “open container” laws are still in effect, so restaurants and bars have to come up with ways to transport the drinks.  This has led to a revitalization of a trend that I was really hoping was on its last legs: mason jars. The biggest caveat of those, however, is that even when purchased in bulk, they cost at least $1 each, cutting further into these struggling businesses’ profits.  I’m not sure if anyone’s tried this yet, but I feel like using the plastic seal machine they use in boba tea places might be a good solution. That or cryovacing bags into big, adult Capri Suns. Alas, the equipment needed for both of these methods are probably not something most bars have lying around. And it’s hard to believe that these restrictions will stay lifted once the pandemic has come and gone, so the $1000 investment of a sealer machine probably won’t be worth the month or two’s worth of sales.  

I feel like this may also see a shift in the content of the drinks themselves.  Are we going to move away from delicate foams and garnishes or find ways to make them more transportable? Is there a way to put a salt or sugar rim on a to-go cup?  Will people develop preferences towards which kinds of cocktails pair best with quarantine?

There’s one last stipulation to the new regulations: drinks can only be delivered with food.  I remember hearing an anecdote about how at the start of Prohibition, bars would “sell” patrons glasses and “give” them beer “for free,” so bars that didn’t have food before might start doing something similar by “selling” bags of chips or something like that.  But, one would assume that a bar specializing in craft cocktails probably wouldn’t half-ass it with a bag of Doritos, so it will be interesting to see what kinds of bar snacks they can come up with without a kitchen. (Pro Tip: you can cook couscous by steeping it in hot tap water.)

In an industry that was already rife with failure, it’s hard to optimistically say that these measures will keep restaurants and bars from going under.  But at least they have a fighting chance.  

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