Governor Tom Wolf has signed a bill that will allow officially allow licensed restaurants and bars to serve alcoholic cocktails to go in Pennsylvania.
The HB327 bill, which was unanimously approved by the Pennsylvania Senate last week, is a temporary measure that will be in effect until bars and restaurants are able to reach 60% of seating capacity.
The bill’s passing has been welcome news to Adam Henry, who co-owns popular Pittsburgh spots Hidden Harbor, Lorelei and the Independent.
“This is something that we’ve been publicly calling for since really a couple days after the shutdown,” Henry says. “It was apparent that as a state we needed to be creative to find new revenue for bars and restaurants, especially when the state liquor stores were shut down. Even now that liquor stores are mostly reopen, it’s an important step to take.”
Since the state’s initial restaurant shutdown order, Hidden Harbor pivoted hard to become a takeout operation, offering a variety of mocktails to go, including Night Rippers, with fresh-pressed lime, pineapple and orange juices, coffee, honey, passion fruit, vanilla and allspice, and just-add-rum Painkillers.
Those to-go offerings have allowed Henry to keep a significant portion of his staff employed (“Basically, everybody who wants to work,” he says), prepping citrus juices and bottling mocktails. Depending on the demand for cocktails, additional team members may be added.
Because the tiki bar had not done a lot of takeout business prior to the pandemic, the process of setting up the systems – online ordering, delivery operations – was difficult. But now, says Henry, all three of his restaurants are fully ready to begin offering to go alcoholic drinks.
“This really opens up a whole new world of beverages for us,” he says. “You would think that a non-alcoholic tiki mocktail is just a tiki cocktail with the rum taken out, but it’s not that simple. Tinctures, liqueurs, all of those contain alcohol, and so now we’re able to open up a huge new number of classic and original recipes that we can now do to go.”
First on Hidden Harbor’s list of available to-go cocktails will be their Hidden Harbor Rum Barrel, a house variation on a classic mid-century tiki recipe.
“That felt appropriate to us, to celebrate the return of rum, the return of spirits generally. We could have sold a non-alcoholic Rum Barrel, but it never felt right to serve something with rum in the name, and not have rum in it,” Henry says.
The Independent and Lorelei will also be serving to-go cocktails, with the Independent focusing on whiskey-based cocktails, and Lorelei offering drinks with an Alpine-type spin.
According to the law, all mixed cocktails from restaurants and bars to go must be served in sealed containers, with a cap on, and all straw holes must be sealed in some way (like with a sticker). Alcoholic cocktails still may not be delivered.
Moving forward, Henry says that cocktail and food to-go operations for his three restaurants will continue to be housed in the Independent, though he’s considering opening a part of Hidden Harbor up for takeout, including serving cocktails and frozen cocktails from the front of the restaurant when the weather improves.
“Obviously, we look forward to being open sooner rather than later, but we have to make sure that it’s both safe, and makes business sense to do so,” he says. “In the meantime, we’re pushing forward with this takeout model. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got.”
Online orders can be made at the restaurant’s website.
Know of any other restaurants or bars offering cocktails to go in Pennsylvania? Let us know in the comments!