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businessinsider - 9 days ago

3 entrepreneurs explain how they pivoted to cocktail kits and to-go spirits to take advantage of changing alcohol laws, serve customers, and keep workers employed

The coronavirus pandemic has altered alcohol laws to allow serving drinks to go. These businesses capitalized on the opportunity, but recommended you familiarize yourself with the law before following suit. Make sure that you re offering something unique that patrons couldn t order elsewhere, and make accessing it easy for the customer. And consider what your to-go offering could look like after the pandemic ends. Click here for more BI Prime stories. In most of the US, walking out of a business with a cocktail in hand is illegal. Or it was, until stay-at-home orders flooded the country and many states relaxed laws in an effort to help save restaurants that were forced to shut down. Now, more than 20 states have given temporary orders allowing businesses to continue serving alcohol, albeit in a different format and entrepreneurs have jumped on the opportunity. Three businesses shared their strategies for finding success in switching to to-go service through COVID-19 and beyond. Understand the law and how to work within it Once you understand the laws and what s legal, then it becomes a little easier for you to decide how you want to approach it, said Jason Kosmas, beverage director for Loro, an Asian smokehouse and bar in Austin, Texas. Before COVID-19, alcohol made up nearly 30% of the restaurant s sales. To recoup some of that loss, Loro is selling cocktail kits that include bottles of fruit juice and other ingredients, pre-diluted and measured to mix with an accompanying bottle of spirits. They re also serving to-go cups of pre-mixed frozen tonic and lime, paired with a small bottle of gin, for carryout and delivery. Liquor laws vary widely between states and even counties. In some states, it s enough to pour a drink into a cup with a lid and send it out the door, but other states are not as lax, requiring tamper-seal containers and other caveats. Understand what policies are in place where you operate many ABC boards have released statements and explainers and build from there. In Illinois, mixed to-go cocktails remain prohibited. Julia Momose, co-owner of Kumiko, a Japanese-influenced cocktail bar in Chicago s Fulton River District, is currently selling bottles of wine, sake, gin, vermouth, and more. But the margins on selling bottles is slim, so she retooled her existing spirit-free menu a selection of blended juices, spices, and more as something of a cocktail kit option, giving recommendations to customers about what spirits would work well with the nonalcoholic drinks. Since restaurants shut down, Momose has started an initiative called Cocktails for Hope, which has collected 12,000 signatures on a petition to allow the sale of mixed drinks for carryout, which she said would help keep businesses afloat through COVID-19 and even restore some jobs in the meantime. The project has partnered with State Senator Sara Feigenholtz, who led efforts to legalize happy hours in Illinois. Offer something distinctive You find something familiar and you put an on-brand spin, stressed Liz Huot, co-owner of Scandinavian-influenced Oskar s Slider Bar in Louisville, Kentucky. Oskar s lingonberry margarita has been the restaurant s bestselling drink, and it s not something you can buy the ingredients for in a liquor store and easily make yourself, allowing it to stand out from grocery store margarita mixes. The same can be said for Loro s run of margarita cocktail kits, including yuzu lime, mango chili, and mandarin margaritas. The rotation of kits, which often come with a pair of clay margarita cups, are batched each day and offered in limited supply, influenced by the produce that Loro can obtain and squeeze fresh each day. Make it as simple as possible for the customer Momose worries about making the drinks as simple for consumers and as consistent to the on-site experience as possible. She doesn t want customers to have to measure out ingredients or for the end result to fall flat from what she serves at Kumiko. I m a control freak, Momose said. And I think about what if the proportions are wrong, or what if the ice that they re using doesn t taste good and it makes my drink taste bad? There is that level of wanting to maintain this level of quality and style as it pertains to the brand of my business. At Loro, Kosmas designed the kits to work with 375ml bottles of spirits. We made our recipes so that if you were to pour the entire contents of both bottles into a pitcher, all you would have to do is pour it over ice. Wouldn t have to shake it, wouldn t have to stir it. It s already essentially pre-diluted. Kosmas explained. So what you re getting is a cocktail that s finished for you. Consider what may work in the long run Laws continue to change, and there remains a lot of questions around what the future of restaurant dining will look like. Are the solutions you re offering ones that can scale and stay relevant? Kosmas gives an example: Right now, he s repurposed the restaurant s outdoor water coolers for batching mixers for each cocktail kit, but he s looking into investing in equipment that can make the process easier and more efficient. Because when people begin to step into Loro again, he wants them to be able to safely continue their fun for the night by giving them the option to take a kit home with them when they leave.SEE ALSO: The legal and tax implications of taking your company remote permanently NOW READ: The pandemic has prompted a childcare crisis — here are creative ways employers can help working parents on staff juggle it all Join the conversation about this story NOW WATCH: Tax Day is now July 15 — this is what it s like to do your own taxes for the very first time


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