State Watch

Hochul calls for permanent legal to-go cocktails in NY

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) delivers her first State of the State address in the Assembly Chamber
Associated Press/Hans Pennink

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) offered another break with her disgraced predecessor on Wednesday when she used her first State of the State address to call for allowing restaurants to serve to-go cocktails permanently.

Hochul’s proposal, which must still pass muster with the Democratic-controlled state legislature, would codify a temporary proposal that first took effect at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants and bars forced to shift in-person sales to takeout won the right to include alcoholic beverages, which make up a substantial portion of most dining establishments’ sales.

But that temporary reprieve expired in June, when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) formally lifted a state of emergency related to the pandemic. The New York Liquor Authority advised businesses they would no longer be able to sell alcohol for off-site consumption.

At the time, New York City restaurants and then-Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), Cuomo’s longtime rival, criticized the move as a devastating blow to businesses that had only barely survived the brutal lockdowns.

Cuomo resigned in August in the face of accusations of sexual harassment by multiple women. Hochul, his lieutenant governor, ascended to the top job.

“We’re … going to do something bars and restaurants have been asking for — to once again allow the sale of to-go drinks, a critical revenue stream during the lean times last year,” Hochul told legislators in Albany. “Cheers, New York.”

New York had been the first state to allow restaurants to sell cocktails to go during the pandemic. In the months since, at least 15 states and the District of Columbia have made permanent the to-go cocktail rules. At least four more states are considering extending alcohol sales for off-site consumption.

Legislative leaders in Albany had been negotiating a permanent return of to-go sales, though those talks broke down amid infighting between community leaders and industry groups, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions.

Now, those talks appear to be back on the menu.

“This is such awesome news for New York’s hospitality industry There is so much unpredictability with Covid-19, and allowing cocktails to-go provides restaurants with a little stability during this tough time,” said Lisa Hawkins, the lead spokeswoman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the industry’s trade group in Washington.

Alcohol sales can make up more than a quarter of a restaurant’s overall sales, Hawkins said.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Bill de Blasio Cocktail cocktails-to-go Coronavirus coronavirus pandemic coronavirus restrictions covid-19 restrictions Kathy Hochul New York to-go cocktails

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