Portland’s illegal cocktail-to-go protest is over before it started

By Kristian Foden-Vencil (OPB)
Nov. 19, 2020 8:25 p.m.

A plan by Portland bar owners to illegally sell cocktails-to-go has been canceled.

Instead, the business owners said they are putting their hope in the law being changed during Oregon’s possible special session.

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The Oregon Liquor Control Commission allows restaurants and bars to sell beer and wine to go, but not cocktails. The ban is enshrined in Oregon’s Constitution.

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Bar and restaurant owners said cocktails-to-go would help them get through the COVID-19 restrictions implemented this week, which ban in person dining.

Matt Davidson of Botanist House in Portland estimates 65% of his revenue comes from selling drinks, not food. So in an act of civil disobedience, he was planning to sell cocktails-to-go the day before Thanksgiving.

With lawmakers possibly relenting, Davidson is canceling the protest, hoping a legal change is on the horizon.

“We feel that is most prudent to back off the protests,” Davidson said. “We now have a line of sight to a way to do cocktails-to-go legally with distilled spirits.”

Davidson said Botanist House will still be serving drinks to go the day before Thanksgiving, but they’ll contain only beer, wine and cider, rather than distilled spirits.

More than 30 states allow cocktails-to-go. Some Oregonians have voiced opposition to the idea, saying it’ll increase drunken driving, access to alcohol and public intoxication because cocktails can be stronger than other drinks.

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