SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The sale of to-go cocktails became legal in California on Jan. 1 after legislation was signed by Gov Gavin Newsom in October 2021.

It was one of three bills Newsom signed as part of his COVID-19 recovery package to help businesses and restaurants recover from the pandemic. The other bills extended outdoor dining permits and alcohol sales in parklets.

Senate Bill 389, introduced by Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, allows restaurants, bars, breweries, and wineries that sell food to offer to-go alcoholic beverages with food orders. Cocktails being ordered to-go became normal during the COVID-19 pandemic when restaurants, bars, and breweries were closed for inside services.

With restaurants, bars, breweries, and wineries operating as usual, is the law still in effect in California? 

The short answer is yes. The bill allows these businesses to sell to-go cocktails until Dec. 31, 2026. 

Businesses with certain alcohol licenses need to follow guidelines and requirements to sell alcohol to-go to consumers, according to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

According to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s (ABC) website, the requirements for restaurants, beer, and wine manufacturers, or licensed craft distillers that sell food need can sell to-go alcohol with the following requirements: 

  • The licensee may sell distilled spirits for off-sale provided the beverages are in manufacturer-prepackaged containers and ordered and picked up by the consumer.
  • The licensee may also sell alcoholic beverages, except beer, for off-sale consumption when the beverages are in non-manufacturer sealed containers if specified conditions are met

ABC’s specified conditions for the sale of sealed non-alcoholic

As for those specified conditions, here is what authorized licensees need to do to sell non-manufacturer-sealed alcoholic beverages, according to the ABC website: 

  • The alcoholic beverages must be ordered and picked up in person by the consumer directly from the licensee (they cannot be delivered to the consumer away from the licensed premises). The ordering consumer must present a valid ID to verify the legal alcohol consumption age and that they are the consumer who placed the order.
  • The alcoholic beverage must be packaged in a container with a secure lid or cap that is sealed in a manner designed to prevent consumption without the removal of the lid or cap breaking the seal.
  • Wine can only be sold in single-serve containers, meaning containers that hold between 187 milliliters and 355 milliliters (between 6.3 and 12 ounces).
  • Mixed drinks and cocktails sold for off-sale consumption cannot contain more than 4.5 ounces of distilled spirits per drink.
  • Alcoholic beverages in a non-manufacturer sealed container can only be sold in conjunction with a meal. There is a limit of 2 to-go drinks that are not in a manufacturer-sealed container per individual meal.
  • The alcoholic beverage container must be clearly and conspicuously labeled or otherwise identified as containing alcohol so that it is easily identified as containing an alcoholic beverage. 
  • A specified warning sign must be posted on the premises, online, or wherever necessary to ensure the consumer purchasing the alcoholic beverages is given notice of open container laws.
  • The licensee shall notify ABC of their intent to sell non-manufacturer sealed-to-go containers of alcoholic beverages prior to exercising the privileges.