CORONAVIRUS

Bars, restaurants in Iowa can now sell liquor, wine to go

Governor proclamation to help businesses ordered shut to dine-in customers

A to-go box holds the ingredients for a Grandad's Old Fashioned cocktail at Rodina in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 20,
A to-go box holds the ingredients for a Grandad’s Old Fashioned cocktail at Rodina in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 20, 2020. A new order from Gov. Reynolds allows class C license holders to sell unopened bottles of liquor to go off premises, along with unopened wine and beer. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation Friday temporarily allowing some bars and restaurants to start selling liquor and wine to go.

The new rule applies to any business that holds a Class C liquor license — which normally allows bars and restaurants to sell wine, beer and liquor for consumption on the premises and unopened beer and wine coolers to go.

Restaurants and bars are closed by executive order to assist in containing the coronavirus, though they are still allowed to offer carryout and delivery.

They now can sell liquor and wine to go, so long as it is in its original, unopened container.

“With the closure of the bars and restaurants, they don’t have the opportunity to sell those on premises, so as they pivot to curbside sales, overall these orders are meant to help with cash flow,” said Tyler Ackerson, executive officer at the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division.

When the proclamation came out Friday morning, Phoebe and Samuel Charles, owners of Rodina restaurant in southwest Cedar Rapids, were ready.

They are planning to rotate different cocktails and, for now, are selling a take home version of their Granddad Old Fashioned, featuring unopened miniature airplane-sized whiskey bottles along with another bottle of non-alcoholic mixers and an orange peel. Customers can then mix their own cocktails at home.

“I think that was a really good decision. It’s nice to know they’re thinking of this and the struggles this brings to this new reality,” Phoebe Charles said, adding the business is looking for everything that can help it keep the business going.

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The restaurant also is offering a select carryout menu and a “Chef’s Box,” which features the ingredients for a meal and a recipe card, for people to cook at home.

She said the business had to furlough its staff of servers, cooks and bartenders, whom they encouraged to file for unemployment.

“Being a young business without a huge income ourselves, it was really hard to do that,” she said. “Our hearts are broken this is happening to us and small businesses across the world and all their employees.”

In his Friday directive, Ackerson stressed bars and restaurants must continue to buy alcohol from their normal distributors: liquor stores and wine and beer wholesalers.

Friday’s proclamation also says:

• Breweries, brewpubs and beer retailers may fill and sell growlers or crowlers of beer to go without requiring an in-person sales transaction.

• Reporting and remittance of the beer barrel tax and wine gallon tax is temporarily deferred.

• Seasonal and temporary alcohol license and permit holders may request a refund of their license or permit fees.

GRANTS POSSIBLE

The Iowa Restaurant Association also released a statement Friday saying it is working with the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Department of Revenue on a financial relief grant program for bars and restaurants. It hopes to have an application online by Monday.

When business owners are applying for assistance, there will be a box to check that will allow for deferral of Iowa payroll withholding tax and sales tax, as a hardship waiver.

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The waiver will be retroactive to payments due March 20, but business owners must apply for the deferral. The taxes have been deferred, not canceled, but the deferrals will not accrue interest.

Businesses that already have paid the taxes do not currently have a way to request a refund.

Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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