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Get Ready For Cocktails To Go: Struggling Bar Owners Can Soon Make Drinks For Delivery, Pickup

The bill is now on its way to Gov. JB Pritzker's desk and the city is on board, too. It's a huge win for struggling restauranteurs and bar owners who say they need the cocktail sales to survive the coronavirus shutdown.

Julia Momose, partner at Kumiko + Kikkō, is one of the founders of Cocktails for Hope, an effort to legalize pre-mixed cocktail delivery and pickup in Illinois.
Courtesy of Sammy Faze Photography
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CHICAGO — Your favorite Chicago bars and restaurants will soon be able to offer cocktails for pickup and delivery.

House Bill 2682, which allows bars and restaurants in Illinois to sell pre-mixed cocktails to go, won the overwhelming support of state lawmakers during the holiday weekend legislative session and is now on its way to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk. Pritzker said Tuesday he would sign the legislation as soon as possible.

The new measure will allow bars and restaurants to sell cocktails in tamper-proof, sealed containers via curbside pickup and delivery. Struggling bar and restaurant owners lobbied Springfield for weeks on the issue, saying they needed revenue from cocktail sales to survive the extended coronavirus shutdown.

“It’s like we have hope again,” Cocktails for Hope co-founder Julia Momose said.

Weeks ago, Momose, a partner at the Japanese-inspired West Loop spots Kumiko and Kikkō, launched the initiative Cocktails for Hope and an online petition to drum up support for legalizing to-go cocktails.

Other states including OregonVirginia and Missouri have temporarily lifted their bans on pre-mixed cocktail delivery due to the pandemic.

“This isn’t about getting a couple extra bucks in the pocket, this is about saving businesses, saving jobs and helping jumpstart the economy,” Momose previously said.

Momose said the immense support she and her co-founders received these last few weeks pushed the bill forward. The bill “would’ve never been possible without every single person who picked up the phone or wrote an email to their legislator,” she said.

Under the legislation, sellers must ask for identification to prove customers are at least 21 years old and cocktails must be placed in the trunk or the rear compartment of the delivery driver’s car. Bars and restaurants are not required to sell food along with cocktails.

The bill does not apply to third-party delivery companies like Grubhub.

Momose said she and her co-founders are now putting together resources to help restaurant and bar owners launch to-go cocktail service. The resources will include links to bottles and other supplies, as well as frequently asked questions.

“This started off as a mission to create a more certain and sustainable future for bars and restaurants. … The moment that Pritzker passes the bill, we are not going away. Our work has just begun. We truly want to be a resource for anyone who needs guidance or assistance,” she said.

Momose herself is gearing up to offer her signature cocktails via curbside pickup. Her operation, she said, is ready to launch “at a moment’s notice,” as soon as the governor signs the bill.

While Pritzker’s signature will set things in motion, the city is also working on making legislative changes to the municipal code.

“We look forward to working with aldermen, industry leaders and other stakeholders in this latest effort to provide a new stream of much-needed revenue for the hundreds of bars, breweries and restaurants across Chicago who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis,” a spokesman for the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said in a statement.

Momose said to look out for “dealer’s choice” cocktails, where customers can choose ingredients and flavors, and bartenders will create a custom drink

“Part of the fun of sitting at the bar is [when customers say] I don’t know what I want, but I know I like these three things,” she said.

The bar/restaurant owner said she’s also excited to offer The Seaflower, a Kumiko cocktail made with Japanese gin, Vermouth and yuzu kosho with nori powder, salt and sugar on the rim.

“I have received more requests [for this cocktail] since closing than I could possibly imagine,” she said.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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