Calls Grow to Abandon Regulations Eased Under Covid (Hello, Cocktails to Go)
Aaron Zitner and Julie Bykowicz
One day early in the coronavirus pandemic, El Arroyo, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin, banked just $186 in sales. Owner Ellis Winstanley put a cheeky plea on the marquee: “Now would be a good time to legalize drive-up margaritas.”
Days later, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott did just that by issuing temporary approval of alcohol pickup and delivery from licensed bars and restaurants. Mr. Winstanley changed his sign to credit the governor’s move with his ability to rehire 40 employees.
Across the country, state and local governments have temporarily eased hundreds of regulations during the pandemic, aiming to help consumers social distance and businesses avoid economic disaster. Now, some want to abandon them for good.
Lawmakers in Texas and at least 19 other states that let bars and restaurants sell to-go cocktails during the pandemic are moving to make those allowances permanent. Many states that made it easier for healthcare providers to work across state lines are considering bills to indefinitely ease interstate licensing rules. Lawmakers in Washington are pushing for Medicare to extend its policy of reimbursing for certain telehealth visits. States also are trying to lock in pandemic rules that spawned new online services, from document notarization to marijuana sales.
Deregulation has long been a central tenet among Republican politicians, but many of the coronavirus-inspired changes have gained bipartisan support.