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New York Lawmakers Suspend Unpopular Food-With-Drink Rule

The rule has long been ridiculed by customers and restaurant and bar owners

A glass of beer sits on a pub table on the East Side during St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, 2021 in New York City.  Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

New York’s pandemic rule requiring customers to order a food item with their drink may soon be suspended. State lawmakers have indicated that they plan to vote today to suspend the rule, the New York Times reports. The suspension would then go into effect immediately after passing both state legislative chambers, which may happen as soon as this week.

It is welcome news for the city’s bar owners, who have been cobbling together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, plastic baggies of chips, and wilted pizza slices to comply with the rule while serving customers a drink. “This adjustment is common sense, and is a step in the right direction for supporting an industry that was financially devastated by the pandemic,” Andrew Rigie, the executive director for the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement.

The pending suspension apparently was gaining momentum, according to a senior advisor for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who told the Times that “lifting this Covid-related restriction was something we were in the process of implementing in the coming days.” The state legislators are taking action at a time when Cuomo has had his emergency powers reduced in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and mishandling of reporting on COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes.

Cuomo originally enacted the food-with-drink rule last March, and then doubled down on it in July, saying that a bag of chips was not a sufficient food item after a New York pub made headlines for putting “Cuomo chips” on the menu. In August, an East Village bar started a petition arguing that the rule was nonsensical and should be repealed. It gained over 5,000 signatures.

The mandate “clearly doesn’t do much for public health, even though I think the intentions were sincere,” says state senator Brad Hoylman, who district includes neighborhoods in lower and mid-Manhattan.

The rule suspension is one of many legislative changes that the state is in the midst of rolling out for restaurant and bar owners. The pandemic ban on bar seating in the city will be lifted starting next week, and New York’s midnight curfew for restaurants and bars will be eliminated starting on May 17.

Update, 12 p.m.: The state senate voted today in favor of repealing the regulation. “Finally, some action that makes sense,” state senator Peter Oberacker, who represents nine upstate counties, said during the legislative hearing. “Restaurant and bar owners have been calling for this action for months.” The state assembly is due to vote on the repeal next.

Update, 5 p.m.: Following in the footsteps of the senate, the state assembly voted unanimously to repeal the measure.