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Alcohol Sales and Compliance During State of Emergency

To guide local units, the following will offer information regarding sales of alcohol and compliance during a state of emergency.

Suspending Sales of Alcohol

Most local governments do not need to declare an emergency to suspend alcohol sales due to ordinances that provide the Chairman, Mayor, County Manager, or City Manager this authority as demonstrated below:

City of Conyers: Sec. 9-1-150

The City Manager may suspend any license issued for any emergency such as civil disorders or natural disasters or in any situation that the City Manager deems such immediate suspension necessary for the protection of the health and welfare of the citizens.

Suspending Sales of Alcohol for the Prior States of Emergency

The following is an example of what may be considered a “normal” state of emergency in Cape Coral, FL for a hurricane before making land:

A new ordinance suspends all alcohol sales starting on the day before the expected landfall of Hurricane Irma. City officials stated they have reviewed similar ordinances in 60 other cities with similar declarations before deciding to mandate this order.

Utilization of Standard Order for State of Emergency During Current Pandemic

The City of Fresno, California declared a standard “state of emergency” enacting the powers granted to the city under its “Emergency Services Ordinance” including the following:

  1. Suspend the sale of firearms and ammo.
  2. Suspend the sale of alcohol.
  3. Order a general curfew; and,
  4. Order the closing of all taverns.

Potential Exceptions to Suspending Alcohol Sales During Pandemic

It must be considered that the coronavirus pandemic is proving a need to go beyond normal incidents requiring a declaration due to the extreme level of financial stress, extended timeframe, and burden on our communities. Therefore, thoughtful consideration on these extremities must occur during deliberation for issuing these orders including the allowance to sell alcohol with take-out orders from local establishments. The following are examples on a state and local level:


Governor John Carney on Wednesday issued a modification to his emergency declaration that allows any restaurant, brewpub, tavern or taproom with a valid on-premises license to sell alcoholic beverages as part of transactions for take-out food or drive-through food service. Alcohol sales cannot exceed 40 percent of the total sales transaction. All other rules and regulations regarding the take-out of alcoholic beverages apply, including that containers must be securely closed. Alcoholic beverages cannot be consumed on-site, neither indoors nor outdoors. This policy goes into effect at 8:00 p.m. tonight, March 18, and will last until the State of Emergency is rescinded.

City of Conyers (relevant section)

Ordinance No. 1206: Sec. 2 (D.)

If a restaurant is licensed to sell beer or wine for on-premises consumption, such business for the duration of this order only shall be authorized to sell beer or wine for take-out consumption off-premises with the purchase of food.

In the event the State of Emergency is declared by a Governor with language determining closure of eating establishments for dining in but allows for take-out, then it is strongly encouraged for local governments to follow suit to provide additional layers of safety and enforcement of alcohol sales. Local declarations should also include:

  • That alcohol cannot be opened at the time of sale:
  • Can only sell alcohol in a manner that you are licensed to do so (no growlers unless you are licensed to do so) and the form of an unopened can or bottle from a distributor.
  • If deemed within the order, there is a limit of two alcoholic beverages per menu item (excluding appetizers/desserts and a pizza may be considered for two items); and,
  • All other alcohol ordinances remain.

Don’t be surprised that local businesses will push to keep the exception of selling alcohol with take-out after the declaration expires. The answer should be “no”.

Also, a separate notification/memo is distributed to establishments reminding them of precautions to practice during the sale of alcohol to customers. An example of this can be provided upon request.

Marchman Consulting assists communities with alcohol risk management (ARM) measures including developing community plans, environmental scans, ordinance development, certification courses such as RASS for servers/owners, and training for ordinance enforcement. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.