OPINION: Alcohol-to-go will continue to help small businesses in pandemic aftermath

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The past 14 months have been incredibly stressful, particularly for small business owners and restaurants in our community. The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest crisis the restaurant industry has faced in living memory; the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) has told us that Colorado restaurants collectively lost $3 billion in 2020. 

Luckily, many people are getting vaccinated, capacity restrictions are being lifted, and our industry is heading toward recovery. Still, a full industry recovery could take a while: Some estimates from the CRA say three to five years, at a minimum. 

Last year, when Gov. Jared Polis approved restaurants to reopen after the initial spring indoor dining shutdowns, he signed an executive order allowing restaurants to serve alcohol beverages to go, which helped increase our revenue and gave us a boost when we needed it the most. Now, the state Legislature is considering a bill that would extend alcohol to-go sales for five years, which would really help restaurants throughout the state, and especially here in the Metro area. Many Colorado eateries did not survive the pandemic, and we that remain need all the help we can get to stay in business into the future. 

As soon as the pandemic began, we closed Comida at Stanley Marketplace for three weeks, after having a fire sale on all perishable items and sending any leftover perishables to the Denver Food Bank. That left us with dry storage items and, of course, alcohol! The moment we opened back up for six weeks of to-go-only service, alcohol became a huge asset. Being able to bottle and sell to-go cocktails was a game changer for us.

In the same way that alcohol sales contribute to in-store dining revenue by around 35% to 40%, they began contributing to our to-go sales by 20% to 30%. Finding the right packaging and branding for our cocktails was a great part of the creative journey back, and alcohol to go continues to bring in sales that would otherwise not be available to us. 

Even though alcohol to go will not make up for all of the revenue we have lost since March 2020, restaurants and our workers need all the tools possible to boost our recovery. Comida has been in business since 2010, and we look forward to serving the community for years to come. 

Restaurants bring the community together – food and drink, family, memories – and we are glad to be a vital part of that. I am thankful for each and every person who has ordered from us, starting with Tina the pink taco truck and through the years at our other locations, too. Now, I ask for your support of the extension of alcohol to-go sales, which help boost our ability to recover from this last year. 

As we all come out of this pandemic, restaurants need every single revenue stream we can get in order to build our businesses back up. This bill gives restaurants the opportunity to continue to serve our customers where they are, and a chance to come into recovery from a position of strength. Please join me and the Comida team in supporting the alcohol to-go legislation, HB 21-1027, by calling your legislators today to express your support for our business.

Rayme Rossello is the Owner of Comida at Stanley Marketplace

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