Local restaurant owners on Missouri’s decision to allow mixed drinks “to-go”

Missouri started allowing mixed drinks "to-go" on Tuesday.

Luis Ortega is the owner of Maria’s Mexican Grill and Cantina in Joplin.

Like most area restaurants, he has had to make a few adjustments to keep doing business in the face of COVID-19.

“From the beginning it was pretty scary,” Ortega says, “It’s been changing the last two weeks. Last week it started getting better and this week it’s been different.”

Business has been slowly increasing for Ortega.

This week, he and other Missouri bars and restaurant owners got more good news.

The Missouri Department of Public safety announced Tuesday that restaurants could sell mixed drinks and draft beer “to-go” as long as they follow these guidelines:

(From MDPS) The alcohol container must be durable, leakproof, and sealable, and must meet the minimum size requirements outlined in the Code of State Regulations [11 CSR 70-2.010(5)];

  • The customer must have ordered and purchased a meal simultaneous with the liquor purchase;
  • The licensee must provide the customer with a dated receipt for the alcohol beverage(s); and
  • The sealed alcohol container must either be:
    • Placed in a one-time-use, tamperproof, transparent bag which must be securely sealed, or;
    • The container opening must be sealed with tamperproof tape.

The change does not allow liquor licensees to sell mixed drinks in ‘to-go’ plastic or Styrofoam cups with straws or loose covers. The temporary change will remain in effect until May 15th.

“Since we started advertising it, customers are already starting to respond,” Ortega adds, “They miss their margaritas for sure here, you know?”

“We’re starting to see more and more people ordering alcohol to go, which is awesome,” adds John Hunter, owner of Gusano’s in Joplin.

The new rules are meant to help restaurants who have had to close their dining rooms due to COVID-19. 

Ortega says it will help his restaurant make money, but more importantly, it will help keep product moving out the door.

“It’s been helping us, at least trying to get some of the inventory moved we had stocked. So yeah, it’s going to help us.”

“We have 26 kegs, and they’re setting there,” Hunter adds, “That’s not something that we could sell before.”

Ortega and his restaurant plan to keep moving forward, despite having to do business in a different way.

However, he’s looking forward to walking out and seeing a full dining room whenever that may be.

“We miss all that. We’re hoping to get back soon,” Ortega finishes, “I miss seeing the restaurant like it used to be.”