Two years ago, New York restaurant owners were facing the prospect of declining revenue and sales as the COVID-19 pandemic led to a broad shutdown of the economy in the state.
The one bright spot for many eateries and their customers was allowing to-go alcoholic drinks with takeout meals. And now that provision will be made law as part of a state budget agreement announced on Thursday.
It's a big win, too, for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who pushed the measure through in the final budget deal after state lawmakers in both chambers declined to include it in their own spending resolutions last month.
The wholesale liquor and alcohol industry had been staunchly opposed to the change. And under the agreement, large bottles would be restricted, and customers will have to make a "substantial" order of food to get a to-go drink with their meal.
"Gov. Hochul's efforts to support New York's restaurants and taverns are critical to returning the industry to its pre-pandemic levels of employment," said Scott Wexler, the executive director of the Empire Stte Tavern & Restaurant Association. "These measures will allow businesses open their doors more quickly, generate new revenue for owners and workers, and will help restore the economic vitality in neighborhoods all across New York state."
Restaurants have struggled significantly during the pandemic, suffering layoffs and a steep drop off in business. The lifeline during that time was allowing for the to-go drinks, many organizations that represent restaurants have argued.
Melissa Flesichut, the president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, called it "the single most important piece of relief that the state has granted the restaurant industry since the pandemic began."
"This relief will do more than help us dig out from that hole," she said. It will breathe new life into a hospitality scene that's still sputtering. It will reimagine the dining experience, allowing patrons to recreate the full restaurant experience at home through takeout and delivery."