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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Missouri Is Letting Us Have Our Booze After All

Posted By on Wed, Apr 15, 2020 at 4:05 PM

click to enlarge Mixed drinks are back on the curbside menu for Missouri restaurants, thanks to relaxed liquor laws. - COURTESY MISSION TACO JOINT
  • COURTESY MISSION TACO JOINT
  • Mixed drinks are back on the curbside menu for Missouri restaurants, thanks to relaxed liquor laws.

We may have made so me mistakes during the COVID-19 pandemic as a state. Sure, we didn't shut down as soon as we should have. Yes, a guy licked a bunch of stuff in Walmart as a virus "prank." What really matters is that we admit when we did something wrong, St. Louis. And that's what the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control did yesterday.

After ordering multiple businesses to stop serving curbside alcohol, an executive order was passed to temporarily suspend such tyranny until May 15. Mission Taco Joint co-owner Adam Tilford was one businessman affected by the ban on alcohol sales.



"We saw sales going down drastically when we were shut down," Tilford says.

Mission Taco Joint had come up with what seemed like a killer idea to offset losses while its dining room was closed: pre-batched margaritas delivered curbside to grateful customers. Over two days, sales at four locations hit $9,000. Then the state told them to quit, alleging they were violating liquor laws.

Tilford's crew then pivoted to selling the components of margaritas, but the kits, which included a full bottle of tequila, were more expensive by necessity — and less profitable. Sales plunged to $6,000 for a week across four Mission Taco locations.

Tilford said other restaurants had continued to sell alcohol while they were not allowed to do so.

"It was a really selective process," Tilford says. "They [Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control] were calling businesses they received complaints about to shut them down. They didn't issue warning letters, just called and told us to stop. That didn't seem right."

Tilford stepped up over the past month to the challenge. He called state lawmakers, reached out to news sources and discovered he wasn't alone in his fight. Satchmo's Bar and Grill owner Benjamin Brown had also been fighting the law, starting an online petition and contacting his representatives. So, last weekend, they teamed up.

They continued to make calls to state lawmakers like state Rep. Chrissy Sommer (R-St. Charles County) and Alcohol and Tobacco Control Chief of Enforcement Christin Templeton.

And they got a temporary suspension of liquor laws that had prevented them from selling sealed drinks curbside.

Tilford says he has no idea who was called to make that happen, but he's grateful. Despite all of the obstacles, Tilford says he is relieved to be able to sell pre-batched margaritas again. When he got the news yesterday, he was alone in his office at Mission Taco Joint.

"I'm so glad I was alone. I jumped up and did a happy dance," Tilford says. "I even screamed to myself. I'm so excited, my team is so excited."

The business will begin reselling their 32 ounce pre-batched margaritas for $20 today at 4 p.m. Looking ahead, beverage director Kyle Harlan will work over the next week to come up with ways to bring new beverages to the curbside menu.

Tilford can see the possibility of other alcoholic beverages joining the menu, such as their tiki drinks and cocktails like their Paloma. The restaurant will also continue selling non-alcoholic beverages for customers as well.

Tilford says it's important to remember it wasn't just Mission Taco Joint that was affected — it was restaurants everywhere.

"This new law isn't just for us, it's for everyone," Tilford says. "When we got shut down, restaurants everywhere went into panic mode, like 'What can we do to survive?' So, this just doesn't help us. It helps restaurants all over the place."
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