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Officials Push To Extend Alcohol-To-Go For Two Years

El Loco Restaurant in Albany.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
El Loco Restaurant in Albany.

Should restaurants in New York be allowed to continue to-go alcohol sales even after the pandemic? Many local leaders and business owners say yes.

New York's alcohol to go bill is currently authorized via a temporary executive order, which allowed alcoholic drinks to be ordered and delivered, along with takeout food. As the pandemic begins to subside, lawmakers would like to see the practice extended for at least the next two years, giving restaurants and bars ample time to recover and adjust to post-pandemic times.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and other elected officials gathered Wednesday in Albany outside the Savoy Taproom on Lark Street .

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan speaks outside Savoy Taproom on Lark Street.
Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan speaks outside Savoy Taproom on Lark Street.

"When I read the regulations, when they were first released, that allowed the takeout of alcohol from our restaurants, you know, my first thought was, this is great news for our small businesses, because I know that everyone is trying to figure out 'how am I going to keep people employed? How am I going to keep the doors open? How am I going to pay the rent?" Sheehan said. "But the other thing that struck me was that as I read the regulations, they made so much sense that it did beg the question, 'why haven't we been doing this all along?'"

109th district state Assemblymember Pat Fahy, also a Democrat, says since the onset of the pandemic, 8,000 restaurants across the state closed permanently.

"Across the country, the sale of spirits, on premise drinks, dropped 44% last year," Fahy said. "So they're hurting, many of them will tell you they're hurting. But the folks behind me did bent over backwards, did yeoman's work in order to keep those doors open. And many of them are just starting to turn a corner. We think it's only fair that we extend the alcohol to go provisions. Happy to make some modifications. But we do think it's important. And it's important to give, to do some of this post pandemic, we still don't know when post pandemic will be. "

Patrick Noonan, chairman of the Lark Street BID, runs El Loco Mexican Cafe. Noonan says sales of liquor were up through the last year, but liquor stores didn't have to scramble to reimagine their business model the way bars and restaurants did.

"By extending cocktails to go, Governor Cuomo will provide a critical lifeline to local hospitality businesses that continue to struggle with the devastating effects of COVID 19," Noonan said. "We're asking the governor to shift from renewing these relax regulations every 30 days, which leaves us unable to forecast, plan, schedule, budget, and instead follow the footsteps of other states that have made alcohol to go permanent. A permit to go, cocktail policy in New York would be most appreciated. And as an easy way for people to enjoy dining at home in an otherwise stressful time. It has also given people a new way to interface with their favorite bars and restaurants. According studies, 63% of guests intend to continue ordering cocktails to go, even when dining in restaurants is possible. It seems to be common sense that we extend for the greater good."

"We are extremely sympathetic to the plight of these restaurants, and I personally am a huge fan of El Loco for what it’s worth," said Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for Governor Cuomo. "Current executive authority limits our pandemic orders to only 30 days with the option to renew them. A permanent fix would require legislative action.”

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