CHICAGO (CBS) — Shaken or stirred, your favorite cocktail could be a Chicago bar’s make or break.
The woman behind a new movement, Cocktails for Hope, told CBS 2’s Tara Molina that pre-mixed drinks could keep some bars and restaurants afloat during this coronavirus crisis. But they can’t legally sell them, so they’re pushing for a change in state laws.
From her corner cocktail bar in the West Loop, Kumiko at 630 W. Lake St., award-winning mixologist Julia Momose is starting a movement.
“I knew that something needed to be done,” Momose said.
Cocktails for Hope, currently more than 10,000 signatures strong, is an initiative she said will help keep the bars and restaurants that make Chicago unique from closing their doors.
“Bars who have no food sales to speak of right now, this would save them,” Momose said.
The initiative is pushing for a change in Illinois’ laws to allow the sale of pre-mixed cocktails – single signature drinks for takeout and delivery.
Right now, only sealed bottles of liquor and mixers can be sold – cocktail kits customers have to put together at home – and that profit margin is tiny.
“It’s hundreds of dollars of difference right there, and as we multiply it and multiply it, the loss is extraordinary – on top of the loss we are already facing,” Momose said.
So with no “normal” in sight, they’re already working with more than 25 Illinois lawmakers to help make this new normal – a safe reality our bars and restaurants can survive in.
“It’s time to change and be prepared for this new future,” Momose said.
Molina reached out to Illinois’ legislators who are backing this initiative. Here is what some of them said in statements:
Illinois State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago):
“Cocktails for Hope is a pretty simple way for us to provide support for the businesses that make our neighborhoods what they are. We know recovery for many of these community institutions gets more challenging with every day they can’t operate in their traditional ways. This isn’t about making it easier to get your drink on, it’s about making sure that the businesses that employ our neighbors, feed our community and hold space for neighbors to connect will still be there when we come out the other end of this crisis.”
Illinois State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago):
“Lawmakers are working together to provide our local independent restaurants every possible lever and tool to keep their doors open to curbside pickup and delivery during this pandemic. No single industry has been hit harder than the hospitality sector.
“Permitting this industry to creatively and safely package their menu items while preserving safety is very doable. We just have to have the will to do it, and we must act quickly.
“Every day that passes, a door of one of these establishments are quietly closing. We have to do everything we can to keep them alive because they are the heart and soul of our communities.”
Meanwhile, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission said it would confer with Cocktails for Hope:
“The Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC) has agreed to meet with Cocktails for Hope to hear their position on mixed cocktails to go, as we have done with the Illinois Restaurant Association, Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, Chicago Hospitality Association, and others.
“Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the ILCC has issued a host of directives to assist bars and restaurants (and the industry at large). This includes allowing for the sale of cocktail kits and alcoholic liquor in original unopened packaging for “to go” and delivery. It is important to remember that mixed cocktails to go would require the easing of ILCC statute and vehicle code enforcement (out of the ILCC’s jurisdiction). The exceptions for wine and growlers were done through Legislative action.
“It should also be noted that the ILCC has reached out to all 50 states and a majority of States have not allowed Mixed Cocktails “to go” in non-original packaging. Some states are handling this issue through legislation (i.e. Pennsylvania).”
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We’ll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.