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New York’s to-go cocktails reinstated in state negotiations

April 7, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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On Thursday, in the midst of budget negotiations, Gov. Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature agreed to reinstate the “drinks-to-go” policy for restaurants and bars. 

“Drinks-to-go” was instituted as an executive order by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2021. A bill to make it permanent was strongly supported by Hochul, who said at a news conference, “This is what kept people afloat during those dark, dark months and months and years of the pandemic.” However, it was dropped from a package of recovery bills in March, possibly because of pressure from the state’s liquor store industry. 

The policy must still pass in the Senate and Assembly and be signed into law before taking effect, but will allow glasses of wine and cocktails to be sold to go with a food order. Selling to-go bottles will be prohibited, a measure design to protect liquor stores. The New York City Hospitality Alliance called this “a political compromise needed to pass the bill.”

The bill’s sponsor in the Assembly is Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Gravesend-Homecrest-Brighton Beach-Manhattan Beach). In the Senate, it’s Leroy Comrie (D-Queens).

As mentioned above, when the pandemic shutdown indoor dining, selling “alcohol-to-go” which was previously prohibited, was allowed by a pandemic Executive Order, and provided a critical revenue stream to struggling restaurants and bars.

“When the policy abruptly ended last year, it struck a financial blow to their recovery, and New Yorkers were disappointed this popular policy allowing them to have wine delivered to their front door or to pick up a margarita with their takeout food from restaurants was no more,” the New York City Hospitality Alliance said in a news release. 

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. Photo courtesy of NYC Hospitality Alliance

In a March interview with the Brooklyn Eagle, Cymbrowitz said that one reason some people objected was that although the order had a proviso that you had to order food to get drinks-to-go, many people were just ordering small amounts of peanuts (“Cuomo’s peanuts”) or chips to get around the law, then hanging around outside the bar or restaurant “until all hours of the night.”

In July 2020, however, the measure was amended, and customers who wanted drinks-to-go now had to order more substantial food. Still, this image, Cymbrowitz added, was exploited by the liquor-store industry, which opposed the measure.

Legislation establishing an Alcohol Beverage Control Law Reform Commission was also approved that will review the state’s alcohol sector and regulatory framework, and then make recommendations for additional reforms and support.

The NYC Hospitality Alliance praised the leadership of Hochul, Cymbrowitz, Comrie and other lawmakers, along with other elected leaders who voted to reinstate the policy. 

Brooklyn’s Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz (right), the Assembly sponsor of the “Drinks-to-Go” bill, with Councilmember Kalman Yeger. Twitter photo

Among the provisions of the new to-go policy, the group said, are a requirement that drinks be in an appropriately sealed container, a “substantial food requirement” that will be defined by the State Liquor Authority, a requirement that prices be the same for both on-premises and takeout or delivery drinks, and a requirement that deliveries and takeout must follow local rules and regulations in relation to hours of operations.

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