New York state lawmakers, along with restaurant owners and their workers, are pressing for a two-year extension of takeout alcoholic beverages. They say the practice, authorized at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, has allowed them to keep their doors open and avoid some layoffs.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, in one of hundreds of executive orders issued in 2020, allowed alcoholic drinks to be ordered and delivered, along with takeout food.
Restaurants, financially devastated by months-long indoor dining bans to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, say the rule helped some of them turn enough profit to keep from closing temporarily or permanently.
Cuomo has been extending the order every 14 days or so. Jason Pierce, owner of the Savoy Tap Room in Albany, is one of many owners who want legislators to pass a measure that would give more certainty about a service that he says customers want.
“They want to get a beautiful entrée, they want to take some cocktails home with them, and they want to share the experience they’ve enjoyed here in our restaurant in the comfort of their own home,” Pierce said. “The whole concept that we should simply every two weeks try to extend their right to do that is absurd.”
Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, a Democrat from Albany, is sponsoring a bill that would extend the alcohol takeout limits for two years. Fahy says on premise alcohol sales at restaurants and bars in New York are down 44% over the past year, because of the lockdowns and seating restrictions. She says restaurants need the alternative way to offer drinks to customers.
“We think it’s only fair that we extend the alcohol-to-go provisions,” said Fahy. “Happy to make some modifications. It’s important to do some of this post-pandemic. We still don’t know when post-pandemic will be.”
Fahy and the restaurant owners say less than half of the state’s population has been vaccinated, leaving many wary of indoor dining. They say it may be some time before even those who are protected through immunizations might feel comfortable eating inside again.
Dominick Purnomo, co-owner of Yono’s restaurant in Albany, says it’s a service that the majority of restaurant patrons want.
“This bill has an 83% favorability,” Purnomo said. “Find me something else that 83% of people can agree on in the divisiveness that we have in today’s world.”
There is opposition from the state’s liquor distributors and retailers. But bill supporters say liquor stores, which were deemed essential businesses early in the pandemic, never had to close their doors and have seen their profits increase by double digits in the past year.
The restaurant and bar owners got some good news about another executive order issued by Cuomo. The Democrat says he is lifting an 11 p.m. mandatory closing time that they say has hurt their businesses.
“We’re going to extend the 11 p.m. curfew for food and beverage to midnight,” said Cuomo. “For catered events, it will go from midnight to 1 a.m.”
The changes go into effect April 19.
Cuomo says he’s extending the hours because COVID infection rates are declining.