Goodnight, sweet prince (read: 20-ounce plastic bottle filled with a mai tai). In keeping with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s tradition of announcing overnight changes to COVID rules, New York will no longer allow restaurants and bars to sell or deliver alcoholic beverages after … tomorrow! Earlier this month, the SLA had even extended the rule through July 5. Classic COVID Cuomo!
In a tweet announcing the news, the SLA calls this a “return to pre-pandemic guidelines,” but as everyone has been saying, who wants to go back to the old normal? By the old normal, they, of course, mean a New York without to-go drinks. The rule was a lifeline for many operators last year, and it was popular among customers, who were excited to spontaneously buy piña coladas while on the old afternoon stroll. According to a statement* from the president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, Melissa Fleischut, the permanent extension of to-go drinks “is supported by 78 percent of New Yorkers, but the Legislature failed to extend it and now the Executive Order has ended.” Other states have made to-go drinks permanent, while New York’s legislature failed to advance a bill that would do just that, in part because of pressure from liquor store lobbies. In a statement to Grub, an SLA rep says of the bill that “should the Legislature choose to act on it, we are ready to work with them.”
New York’s COVID restrictions may be in the past now, but the pandemic isn’t over, and many industries, including restaurants, are still struggling to recover economically. To some, then, this seems like kicking someone when they’re down. Others, though, see it as inevitable. “I am blown away that they didn’t take away to-go drinks as they expanded hours,” one restaurateur told me in May, as restrictions eased. “And now I think we’ll lose to-go drinks in six weeks, when it’s crazy in the streets, unfortunately.”
This post has been corrected; a statement from the New York State Restaurant Association was originally attributed to the State Liquor Authority.