As the number of coronavirus cases continued to grow across the United States, government officials started shutting down non-essential businesses and putting stay-at-home orders in place.
For restaurants and bars, these new restrictions meant a big hit for their business. As the guidelines remained in place for several weeks, some states went so far as to change their laws to help these businesses survive.
Altered Drinking Laws Because of COVID-19
Before the coronavirus, drinking alcohol out in public was against the law in most areas in the United States. While every state has their own alcohol laws, some more strict than others, people were generally not allowed to walk down the street with an alcoholic beverage in hand and liquor stores were usually the only places to legally buy booze. New Orleans is one of the few places with loose open container laws in the United States.
After weeks of lockdown with sit-down eating still banned and bars struggling, many states started allowing businesses to provide alcohol to go during the COVID-19 crisis. Unlike ever before, people could order cocktails or wine from restaurants’ makeshift delivery windows and continue drinking them on the street. Other changes in alcohol laws now also allow alcohol delivery during the coronavirus by these establishments. When people order food at their favorite restaurant, they can now order an alcoholic drink as well. Massachusetts is one such state that has loosened their drinking laws during the coronavirus, but only for beer and wine sales.
While these temporary coronavirus alcohol law changes were put in place to help restaurants that were forced to close their doors during lockdown, many people are calling for these laws to stay in place after the coronavirus crisis is over. Allowing for more ways to sell alcohol could mean big business for restaurant and bar owners, but others worry that if these coronavirus alcohol laws remain in effect after the crisis passes, it could lead to more drinking problems and people requiring alcohol abuse treatment.
Is There A Connection Between Alcohol Laws & Alcohol Problems?
The long-term impact of the coronavirus alcohol laws is unknown, especially if some places decide to continue these looser practices after the crisis is over.
Some suspect that these laws could do some good when it comes to drinking. Some people argue that delivery fees and upcharges at restaurants could make drinking more expensive and lead people to only drink in moderation. They also speculate that alcohol delivery could decrease the number of drunk driving accidents as people can get alcohol delivered right to their door instead of leaving their house to get more. Research on the topic is not as promising.
One study found that states with stricter alcohol laws, including limited alcohol home delivery, had lower alcohol crash death rates than states with looser regulations.1 Not surprisingly, Louisiana, with its loose open container laws, has one of the highest drunk driving rates in the nation.2 While some of this is likely attributed to the party atmosphere that New Orleans in particular is known for, it is something worth thinking about as other states’ alcohol laws could soon mimic Louisiana’s.
Other studies on liquor laws show that easier access to alcohol may lead to more drinking problems. Tighter restrictions like monopolies on alcohol sales and limited sale hours have been effective in reducing alcohol sale, use, and related problems like DUI and alcoholism.3 Research is limited and sometimes conflicting on the topic as a whole, but if more states start to loosen their liquor laws, there will likely be some consequences.
As a whole, the coronavirus alcohol laws that make alcohol access easier combined with the mental health toll that the pandemic is causing may lead more people to turn to alcohol to cope. The coronavirus may also be problematic for people in recovery, leading them to relapse. A relapse recovery program may be necessary to help these people get back on track.
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Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.