General Affairs

Expansion of to-go alcohol sales considered

The General Affairs Committee heard testimony Feb. 8 on a bill intended to expand off-premises alcohol sales in Nebraska.

Sen. Suzanne Geist
Sen. Suzanne Geist

LB72, introduced by Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln, would allow the holder of a Class C liquor license to sell alcohol not in the original package — such as a mixed drink or cocktail — for consumption off the premises. The holder of a Class I liquor license could do the same if the alcohol is not partially consumed and is purchased with food.

Alcohol sold under the bill’s provisions would be in a sealed, labeled container with a tamper-evident lid, cap or seal and, if placed into a car, be out of reach of the driver or passengers.

Nebraska bars and restaurants were allowed to sell alcohol off site under a directed health measure implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, Geist said, and LB72 would make that change permanent.

“If there is something we can do, or I could do, to help these businesses recover and stay open, then we should try,” Geist said.

Lincoln restaurant owner Dean Hart testified in support of the bill. Revenue at Hart’s restaurant has dropped 40 percent since the pandemic began nearly a year ago, he said, but without the ability to sell liquor his business would be “in dire straits.”

Hobert Rupe, Director of the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, also spoke in support. He said LB72 would not violate the state’s open container law and that most establishments have sold alcohol responsibly during the pandemic.

“We’ve received very few complaints,” Rupe said.

No opponents were present to testify against LB72 and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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