Reno eateries can still sell booze to go — for now

No plans to amend city code to make emergency measure permanent

PHOTO/ISTOCK: The City of Reno plans to end to-go sales of alcohol by restaurants once Nevada Gov. Steve sisolak ends the COVID-19 Declaration of Emergency.

The grab-and-go buzz continues at Reno restaurants, but probably not indefinitely.

In mid-April 2020, about a month into the coronavirus shutdown, City of Reno officials (along with Sparks and Washoe County officials) eased regulations to allow restaurants already licensed to sell alcohol for in-house consumption to sell it for off-premise drinking.

At first, the alcohol could only be sold in its original packaging (so, no cups or growlers). About a week later, officials loosened rules even more to permit beer, wine and cocktails to hit the road as long as they were in lidded containers.

The moves came after requests by owners and customers to give restaurants another income stream when in-house dining was still forbidden and only to-go orders allowed.

With all coronavirus restrictions now lifted for restaurants, the Reno News & Review wondered how long the alcoholic easing would remain in effect.

“At this time, the City is still allowing to-go sales to occur. The tentative plan is to sunset this exemption when the Governor terminates the (COVID-19) Declaration of Emergency (this could change if the City sees a reason to end it sooner,” writes Lance Ferrato, business relations program manager in the City’s Community Development Department, in an email.

“There is no firm intention to permanently change the code regarding this matter; however, the City will be reviewing this and items like it in the future to see if there is a need and/or desire to allow it.”

It’s safe to say there’s a desire among Reno restaurants to allow it. As Mimi Butler, co-owner of Buenos Grill recently told RN&R, “liquor sales to go really did help us. It was a whole new market that wasn’t there before.”

The City’s current position, as described in the email from Ferrato, tracks with comments by City officials in April 2020 that to-go sales of alcohol by restaurants were temporary. Which invites the question: When the time comes, will margaritas kick up a fuss when they have to go back behind the bar?

Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink writer for Reno News & Review. Follow him on Twitter at @ItsJLW or on Facebook personally or at @FoodNevada. Sign up here for the Reno News & Review free weekly newsletter.

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