Restaurants, Pols Revive Push for ‘Drinks-to-Go’

Governor Kathy Hochul visits Therapy Wine Bar in Bed-Stuy in early March to spur proposals to help the restaurant industry, including take-out beverages. Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office

Restaurant owners, bar owners and their supporters, aided by state lawmakers, are renewing efforts to make “drinks to go,” a measure established by executive order in 2020, permanent under state law.

As part of take-out drinks, a restaurant can deliver or make available an alcoholic drink with food for take-out – which was not allowed before the COVID-19 pandemic, with the exception of beer. The owners, most of whom are in debt, say the money from the takeaway drink offer is essential to their recovery.

The measure was strongly backed by Governor Kathy Hochul, who told a news conference, “It’s what kept people afloat through those dark, dark months and years of the pandemic. “. However, he was dropped from a bundle of recovery bills earlier this month in Albany. Proponents hope to resuscitate the bill and pass it as part of the upcoming New York state budget in the coming weeks.

The sponsor of the bill in the Assembly is Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Gravesend-Homecrest-Brighton Beach-Manhattan Beach). In the Senate, it’s Leroy Comrie (D-Queens).

Brooklyn Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (right), the Assembly sponsor of the Drinks-to-Go bill, with Councilman Kalman Yeger.
Twitter picture

“You have to remember,” Cymbrowitz told the Eagle“that at that time [when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued his original executive order], restaurants were only open for take-out and delivery. We were looking to do something that would increase restaurant revenue recovery – for example, a Mexican restaurant could give away a margarita with a takeout order, and an Italian restaurant could give away a glass of Chianti.

One of the reasons some people objected, Cymbrowitz said, is that although the order said you had to order food to get takeout drinks, many people were only ordering small amounts of food. peanuts or crisps to circumvent the law, then hung outside the bar or restaurant “until all hours of the night”.

In July 2020, the measure was changed and customers who wanted drinks to take away now had to order more substantial food. Yet that image, he added, is being exploited by the spirits industry, which opposes the measure.

Cymbrowitz said his bill contained a provision that restaurant patrons could not purchase a full bottle of an alcoholic beverage for pickup or delivery, which would protect liquor stores. Even so, he said, “the liquor store industry was using as many scare tactics as possible.”

A couple share drinks outdoors at e’s Bar in Manhattan on Monday, May 17, 2021.
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Angela Terry, owner of Therapy Wine Bar at 260 Malcolm X Blvd. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which opened in November 2021, said: “To-go drinks will give me another source of income to offset the bottom line because there was so much loss. [Without it] you might have a ticket that cost $30, but with him it’s now $50.

Terry, who is also a member of the board of directors of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, which represents the city’s restaurant and nightlife industry, added that in his opinion, take-out drinks will not harm not liquor store sales. “To-go drinks are more about your own signature cocktails. It lends itself to more creativity, expanding sales and increasing visibility. In liquor stores, you buy pure spirits or wine.

Robert Bookman, attorney for the aforementioned NYC Hospitality Alliance, said “everyone likes to think COVID is over, but it’s not over for the restaurant industry. They are deeply in debt and two-thirds of those who applied for a federal bailout have been barred. To get out of it, they need all possible sources of income. They are far from returning to normal.

Even as recently as December, Bookman said, more than half of offices that had canceled holiday parties because of the Omicron variant.

“The only opposition comes from the liquor stores,” he added. “The liquor stores are very well organized and do a lot of political donations. They worked very well during COVID, when they were deemed essential [and allowed to remain open].”

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