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Cuomo Implements Strike System for NYC Restaurants Not Enforcing Social Distancing

Cuomo announced that he’s instituting a three strike system for restaurants and bars to ensure social distancing

A group of people all standing outside of a restaurant waiting to pick up their orders
Gov. Cuomo announced stricter enforcement around social distancing for restaurants and bars
Robert Sietsema/Eater

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a new, stricter set of rules for NYC bars and restaurants to enforce compliance with social distancing and takeout booze regulations following hundreds of complaints made to the city about social-distancing violators.

According to the governor’s office, the state will be instituting a strike system for the city’s bars and restaurants, effective immediately. Operators will be issued three strikes before the state can shut the establishment down due to noncompliance with social-distancing and to-go alcohol mandates, including making sure that customers are wearing masks, and only selling takeout booze alongside food.

Establishments that are cited for “egregious violations,” could have their liquor licenses immediately revoked before the third strike, according to the governor’s office. The State Liquor Authority will also publicly post the names and locations of establishments that are found to be in violation — though the governor’s office did not say where this information will be available.

Cuomo made the announcement during a press conference this morning, though his statements seemed to cause some confusion on Twitter initially, with some interpreting the Governor’s statement to mean the end of takeout cocktails. Cuomo later clarified that the state was going to be stricter about enforcing a rule introduced in March where restaurants and bars are not allowed to serve alcohol without food for takeout orders — and, now, they are not allowed to serve alcohol without food for outdoor dining patrons, either.

Cuomo has warned repeatedly that the state would take more drastic action to enforce social-distancing regulations as crowds have swelled outside bars and restaurants across the boroughs throughout the summer.

Longstanding West Village bar White Horse Tavern was the first spot to be temporarily stripped of its liquor license in Manhattan since outdoor dining began in the city. The action came after the bar racked up over 30 violations of social-distancing rules and outdoor dining protocols.

Cuomo said in the press conference that state officials have investigated more than 5,000 restaurants and bars — mostly downstate and in NYC — and found “widespread lack of compliance” with social-distancing orders.

Cuomo did not say if the three-strike rule would mean establishments would have to shutter permanently, nor did he provide clarity on which government agency would be enforcing these rules, and if they would be handing out tickets to restaurants and bars in violation of this order.

Eater has reached out to the governor’s office for more details.