Governor Cuomo announced that as of today, the Covid-19 State of Emergency he put in place for New York on March 7, 2020, would end, given the success in vaccinations and declining hospitalization and positivity rates. This comes after the governor lifted almost all Covid-related restrictions last week. So although restaurants can now operate as they did pre-pandemic, they will also have to go back to not being allowed to offer to-go or delivery alcoholic beverages. The State Liquor Authority, who authorized the temporary pandemic-related privileges under the State of Emergency, made the announcement yesterday.
The SLA first implemented the privileges when the State of Emergency was declared in March of 2020. This allowed businesses to sell to-go alcoholic beverages, including wine and liquor for the first time, as long as it was with a food purchase. The governor and the SLA made the change to help alleviate some of the financial hardship for restaurants during the dining shutdown.
In May of 2020, State Senator Brad Hoylman introduced legislation that would have kept these guidelines in place for at least two years after the state of emergency ends. At the time, he said this would provide businesses “a much-needed lifeline while New York slowly returns to normal.”
But the following month, Hoylman considered rescinding the legislation, as videos and photos began surfacing of unmasked crowds drinking openly on the sidewalk and in the streets in front of restaurants. “The failures of these establishments to follow the law will create a public health disaster, not to mention creating noise and quality of life issues,” he said at the time.
Though crowds became less of a problem, especially as social distancing rules have been relaxed, the legislation never was passed. And yesterday’s announcement from the governor came as a surprise to most of the restaurant industry. As Eater NY explains: “Cuomo had previously extended the state’s temporary takeout cocktail program by 30 days, set to expire on July 5, but city and state organizations are now interpreting the end of the state of emergency as an early end to liquor to-go for restaurants and bars.”
An SLA spokesperson confirmed to Eater that the to-go alcohol program would, in fact, end today with the exception of beer, which was allowed to be sold for takeout and delivery prior to the pandemic.
But now, in response, State Senator Julia Salazar is pushing to legalize the consumption of alcohol in public places. Along with Assemblymember Robert Carroll, Salazar introduced a bill in May that would make it lawful for a person in New York to consume or possess an open container of alcohol in public. “Our bill also seeks to address the inequities in how the current laws are being enforced in our communities. The police tend to over-enforce public drinking laws in communities of color while turning a blind eye in more affluent neighborhoods,” she wrote on Twitter.
- To-go cocktails will continue in New York for at least another month
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