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Watsonville
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March 31, 2020

Chavela for the road? Restaurants temporarily allowed to sell alcohol to go

WATSONVILLE—Taqueria Mi Tierra is best known around the Pajaro Valley and the greater Monterey Bay for its towering, spicy chavelas—a tasty concoction that contains beer, lime juice, assorted sauces, spices, tomato juice and chile peppers.

Co-owner Fernando Munoz said the family has served the drink in various forms for at least the last 15 years.  

“People love them and we pride ourselves in creating a consistent, zesty chavela,” Munoz said.

Thanks to a recent relaxation of California alcohol laws, their well-known mixed drinks will continue to wet people’s whistles through the COVID-19 outbreak.

Cocktails can now be ordered to go and delivered curbside to customers courtesy of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and its response to the statewide stay-at-home order.

The department enacted the regulatory relief to “support the alcoholic beverage industry in its efforts to assist California in slowing the spread of the virus while assisting the industry in dealing with the economic challenges it is facing as a result,” it said in an official statement.

For Munoz and several restaurateurs, that decision has been a boon in a time that has otherwise thrown them into financial uncertainty.

“I don’t know how long this will last—if it’s short-term or long-term—but this has been a lifeline for us,” Munoz said. “We were thinking of closing down before this. But this gives us a chance to survive [the shutdown]…We’re incredibly thankful to Watsonville, Aptos and Corralitos communities for all their support.”

The ABC, it said, arrived at the decision after careful consideration of the public’s health safety or welfare and whether it will be negatively affected. 

“Exercised on a temporary basis,” the ABC thinks not. 

There are rules, however: to-go cocktails can only be purchased with a meal, whether that be through a drive-thru, pick up or delivery. Other adult beverages available in this manner include wine and beer.

“Any such alcoholic beverages must be packaged in a container with a secure lid or cap and in a manner designed to prevent consumption without removal of the lid or cap (e.g., no lids with sipping holes or openings for straws),” reads the ABC’s “notice of regulatory relief.”

Naturally, consumers acquiring cocktails and other alcoholic beverages are discouraged from drinking them while driving or break open container laws by allowing non-drivers to do so.

Chavelas from Mi Tierra come split in two: (1) a disposable cup containing all the fixings and (2) your choice of a bottled Mexican beer. Customers then mix them at their leisure—which ABC hopes is from home.

Mi Tierra II offers drive-thru service at 1726 Freedom Blvd. Customers can call in their order at 724-5880.

Restaurants offering deals on to-go alcohol orders:

Ella’s at the Airport: Offering half off bottled wine and discounted beer prices. Mix drinks also available. Menu: ellasinwatsonville.com. Location: 100 Aviation Way. Call 728-3282.

Fish House Bar & Grill: Offering half off bottled wine. Mix drinks also available. Menu: facebook.com/TheFishHouseWatsonville. Location: 972 Main St. Call: 728-3333.

Cilantro’s: Offering 50 percent off bottled wine and 20 percent off bottled beer. Also offering liter margaritas for $20 and selected mix drinks such as La Paloma and Mexican Haze. Location: 1934 Main St. Call: 761-2161.

Editor’s note: Bohemian reporter Daedalus Howell contributed to this report.

Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez
Managing Editor Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor for five years before entering his current role in 2019. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, he covers the city, business, housing, entertainment and more.

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