Restaurants can begin offering limited “dine-in” services today as part of Georgia’s initial efforts for re-opening businesses. It should be noted that bars and clubs remain closed. However, there will be some issues that businesses should be prepared for in terms of alcohol compliance. The following will offer insight regarding sales of alcohol, compliance, and expected behaviors following a state of emergency.
It should not come as a surprise, but the level of alcohol sales and consumption has seen a dramatic increase during the pandemic. The following graph illustrates the increase including bulk purchases–which is an indicator of higher consumption. In addition, Forbes estimates that online sales increased by 65% during the same timeframe with a 42 percent increase in alcohol sales. However, this could be seen as encouraging because it reduces the potential of drinking and driving associated with the purchase of alcohol.
It should be noted that an increase in consumption (over five weeks) correlates with an increased level of tolerance. This raises the first concern for restaurants because the increase in tolerance reduces the observable behaviors associated with over-consumption. Managers, bartenders, and servers must be aware of this and emphasize the simple observation or tracking of how many drinks customers consume during a meal.
Concerns may also surface with behaviors that may have been established with local governments modifying alcohol ordinances to allow for the ability to sell alcohol with purchasing “take-out” food. Although this was done as a means of good faith to help reduce the number of jobs lost and sales, it is only human nature for behaviors to become habitual after 21 days. Evidence of this can be seen by the tremendous amount of support illustrated on social media in favor of “take-out alcohol”.
Lastly, as expected and understood, enforcement of alcohol ordinances has been drastically reduced in the continued efforts of good faith. Examples of this being taken advantage of including but are not limited to selling take-out alcohol without the purchase of food, selling open containers of wine and mixed drinks; filling growlers with beer when they are not licensed to do so; and, limited to zero checkings of IDs during curbside service. Therefore, businesses may fall into the same mindset or habits as the general public/customers and not feel as compelled to be compliant.
Therefore, it is recommended for local governments to communicate with businesses and individuals who are licensed for selling or serving alcohol that when the alcohol ordinances return to normal:
1. Remember that existing ordinances will be enforced.
2. That customers will seek and/or expect the same services provided under emergency orders, but they are not applicable anymore.
3. That research indicates when an individual’s consumption increases over time, so do their tolerance that will, in turn, reduce the normal behavioral cues of intoxication causing the need to observe/track the number of drinks in one seating: and,
4. Return to checking everyone’s ID to ensure customers are not underage.
In addition, observations during this period have caused a further recommendation for restaurants that provided take-out alcohol in the form of “growlers” should be encouraged to apply for a license to continue providing this service. Growlers are sealed and will reduce (not eliminate) the opportunity to have an open container of alcohol while driving home instead of the likelihood of opening a “single” beer.
Hope this information is helpful and if your community requires any additional assistance with increasing alcohol compliance and reducing underage consumption, please do not hesitate to contact us.