Cocktails-to-go may no longer just be characteristic of pandemic times. State Senator Brad Hoylman, who represents much of Lower and Midtown Manhattan, has introduced legislation that would allow bars and restaurants to continue offering wine, beer, and cocktails for takeout and delivery, for two years following the end of the ongoing COVID-19 related emergency.
Following the shutdown on dining-in in March, the State Liquor Authority eased restrictions on the sale of liquor. While only beer was allowed for takeout previously, the emergency order allowed establishments to sell cocktails and wine, as long as it was accompanied by food.
That provision still stands in the new bill introduced by Hoylman, as does the requirement on selling alcoholic beverages in containers that follow open-container laws.
“Iconic bars and restaurants — from Gem Spa in the East Village to Coogan’s in Washington Heights — have permanently closed,” Hoylman said in a statement on Twitter. “Alcohol delivery and take-out could be a much-needed lifeline for these small businesses.”
The bill was lauded by NYC restaurant coalition Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants (ROAR), which represents more than 75 restaurants and bars in the city. Dana Cowin, the former Food & Wine editor-in-chief and one of the leaders at ROAR, called it “an essential need for restaurants struggling to determine if they can even consider reopening and bringing back the hundreds of thousands of workers employed by the industry,” a statement to Eater says.
If passed, the bill will allow alcohol takeout and delivery for two years, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the provision will end there. Based on how the dining industry and New Yorkers respond to the legislation, the provisions could be extended further or become a permanent fixture.
The law will only apply to places that have liquor licenses to sell booze at their establishments, and the bill also requires the SLA to reach out to local community boards and municipalities for their feedback. The SLA could potentially revoke a restaurant or bar’s ability to sell booze-to-go if there are multiple complaints from locals.
Many restaurants and bars across the state rely on liquor sales to stay afloat, and with the shutdown on dining in, the emergency provision was meant to help these establishments weather the crisis. States across the country have eased restrictions around liquor-to-go during the ongoing crisis, and many restaurant owners have called for it to become a permanent fixture.
Many restaurants have been forced to shutter permanently during the crisis, and the dining industry has lost billions of dollars since the shutdown. Restaurants aren’t expected to go back to normal anytime soon, and Hoylman is hopeful the two-year provision will provide an extra boost to New York businesses. That provision will only kick in once the emergency period has been officially lifted.