I crossed the Columbia River for the thing Portland restaurants are desperate to offer: cocktails to go

The weekend after Thanksgiving, people usually come from Washington, Oregon to buy things without paying sales tax.

I drove from Oregon to Washington to get around state liquor laws.

My destination: Rally Pizza. My order: a fennel sausage pie, Caesar salad, roasted vegetables, and two “Little Italy” cocktails. It’s Bourbon, Aperol, Amaro CioCiaro and fresh lemon juice, premixed in a single mason jar and wrapped in “Cold Sack” staple paper.

Portland’s bars and restaurants are in desperate need of Oregon to legalize take-out alcohol. Governor Kate Brown insists her hands are tied. The ban is enshrined in state law – ORS 471.175 states that “all alcoholic beverages… must be consumed in authorized premises”. While many states, including Washington and California, have been able to ease similar restrictions through emergency orders, the position of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is that neither the agency nor Brown can. nothing to do without legislative action to revise the law.

But companies are getting impatient. Last week, Pearl District gin bar The Botanist threatened to commit an act of “civil disobedience” and sell take-out cocktails without state approval. This never happened: The owners canceled the protest because simply announcing their intention made the public aware of the problem and because they could have lost their liquor license.

Related: Botanist House owner Matt Davidson is aware that his statewide protest against the freeze could end his business. He’s gonna do it anyway.

Co-owner Matt Davidson says he is now placing his hope in House Speaker Tina Kotek’s call for Brown to have a “catastrophic special session” of the legislature. But there is no guarantee that anything will result, if it does.

So here I am in Washington, where Governor Jay Inslee legalized take-out cocktails in May, as part of a larger overall stay-at-home order. Any state establishment with a “liquor, wine and liquor restaurant license” can include cocktails in a take-out order that also includes a “full meal.” Drinks should also be in a closed container, from bottles and mason jars to sealed bubble tea cups.

Rally Pizza co-owner Shan Wickham says alcohol is just an addition for most customers, not only to their dinner, but also to other items Rally sells like a virtual grocery store: eggs , coffee, yeast.

“It’s come back a bit over the past two weeks, but it’s still not a big part of our income,” she says. “This will add $ 20 to $ 40 to a check that would otherwise have been a couple of pizzas and a salad. It’s not a deal breaker for us, but I will definitely take it.”

My two Little Italy cocktails totaled $ 18, turning what would have been a $ 42 check into $ 60, plus a 30% tip. Rally also specializes in alcoholic $ 20 milkshakes. It doesn’t put any restaurant back in the dark, but those extra sales help people keep their jobs.

Among the forces brandishing cocktails to go to Oregon, politically speaking, is the advocacy group Oregon Recovers, which fears it could cause an increase in alcohol abuse and / or impaired driving. drunkenness. On the one hand, Washington law stipulates that the drink must be placed in the vehicle out of reach of the driver. And to properly consume my Little Italy – according to the instructions attached around the mason jar – I had to shake it over ice for 20 seconds until it was “diluted and chilled”, pour it over ice. fresh or straight into a cup, and finish it off with one of the two dehydrated lemon slices provided.

I wasn’t going to do this in the Rallye Mall parking lot – or anywhere else – before hopping onto Hwy 14 West and I-5 South. If I just wanted to get hammered, that same $ 18 would already buy me an entire bottle of bourbon on either side of the Columbia.

For restaurants and their customers, being allowed to sell take-out cocktails isn’t about getting people drunk, and it’s not even about money. It’s more about replicating all of the social and creative elements of the food industry that we currently can, preserving just a bit of that restaurant experience, both as a customer and as a bartender.

Drinking a cocktail that you haven’t made yourself is delicious. Little Italy is especially refreshing for a whiskey drink – citrus, sweet and bitter at the same time, with at least one ingredient, amaro, that I would never have at home without a little forethought. The only other thing I needed to feel like I was in a restaurant was the Spoon Pandora chain. It’s a shame that I had to pay Washington sales tax on the order.

EAT AND DRINK: Rally Pizza, 8070 E Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver, Washington, 360-524-9000, rallypizza.com. 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday to Sunday for curbside pickup or delivery via DoorDash.

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Sandy A. Greer

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