New York lawmakers will likely not be extending alcohol to go at restaurants and bars as part of their actions on the final day of the legislative session. Restaurant and tavern owners, who are still struggling financially, are expressing their disappointment.
Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed restaurants and bars to offer alcoholic beverages to go along with food orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Democrat has extended that executive order several times.
Restaurants and tavern owners, who gathered outside the Capitol for some last-minute lobbying, say it’s been a lifeline and allowed them to increase sales and add staff as they struggle to come back from pandemic shutdowns.
“We are not in any way shape or form back to our pre pandemic levels,” said Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association. She said the industry has lost billions of dollars and thousands of jobs since March 2020.
“Alcohol-to-go helps our restaurants, it helps their sales,” she said.
Scott Wexler, with the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association, blames opposition from the liquor industry and liquor stores.
“The liquor store industry has operated like a protection racket for generations,” said Wexler, who added that some of the state’s liquor laws have not changed substantially since 1935, shortly after prohibition ended.
“(They are) trying to preserve the Prohibition era rules that freeze out competition,” he said.
The Democratic-led Senate and Assembly have separate bills that would extend the alcohol to go rule permanently, or with a one-year sunset provision. But the houses did not plan to act on them, or try to agree on one measure, before the session ended.
The liquor industry and liquor stores have not commented publicly on the bill. The restaurant and bar owners also say they are losing the argument because the Capitol remains closed to the public, even though Governor Cuomo has announced reopening for sports venues and theaters. They say that hampers them from getting their message directly to lawmakers.