Offering to-go cocktails and beer to customers helped Lures Bar and Grille in Crownsville stay in business during the most difficult months of the COVID pandemic, when restaurants were forced to shut down through an executive order.
“Immediately they were a key in keeping the business afloat and keeping everyone afloat,” Tristan Soja, the restaurant’s manager, said. “(Customers) were tipping giant tips at first and we still get good tips to this day. For the first months of to-go, I’d say they were just handing us money in tips and it was helping out a lot,”
Although to-go beer orders had slowed down since the beginning of the pandemic, Soja said cocktails remained popular after restrictions were eased and people were allowed to sit down at the bar.
And in Anne Arundel County, restaurants will be able to continue serving to-go alcohol, said Jimmy Praley, attorney for the Anne Arundel County liquor board. He said businesses have to apply through the liquor board and those applications will be sent to businesses via email.
Gov. Larry Hogan had signed a bill that allows restaurants to continue serving alcohol via carryout and delivery until 2023 but establishments need to get approval from local liquor boards. Similar to Anne Arundel, restaurants in Annapolis are able to apply to the the Annapolis Alcohol Beverage Control board to continue off-premise liquor sales since the state of emergency ended July 1.
Soja said restaurants are experiencing shortages in supplies since the beginning of the pandemic, including straws to serve their to-go drinks. Despite this, to-go cocktails remain popular among customers, especially orange crushes and margaritas.
Tucker’s in Pasadena has a unique perspective as they have only been open officially since the beginning of July.
“Everyone is begging to keep it going.”
Tucker said that being a new restaurant and bar, he has had to come up with new ways to keep people coming back.
“We have to do whatever we can outside the box to try to attract people, even though our social media following is pretty savage and it’s on point,” Tucker said.
He came up with an idea called the “adult swim” which consists of people gathering at the bar at 6 p.m. while music plays in the background to take a shot together. The drink is a combination of vodka, peach and cranberry.
Tucker said that bars don’t have a “late night” crowd as much as they did before the pandemic. Like Lures, crushes are the most popular drinks people order but Tucker is putting a new spin on the orange crush by making different flavors with other fruits.
James King, CEO of Titan Hospitality Group which is affiliated with Blackwall Hitch in Crofton and Smashing Grapes in Annapolis, said that because these establishments are more fine dining, they don’t get as many to-go alcohol orders. Their customers prefer to come in and sit down for their drinks and food.
“I think a lot of it depends on your location and style of food,” King said. “If you’re fast, casual and you tend to sell more to-go food and things like that, I think it’d be very helpful.”
King said he appreciates county government doing what they can to support businesses as they continue to navigate through the pandemic.
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“Every restaurant we own is short staffed at about 30%, we just can’t find people,” King said. “I think everything the government can do to support our industry is needed and is helpful and is appreciated as we come out of this.”