Old-school restaurant and wine bar Anton’s in the West Village made headlines earlier this month after adding a 25-cent martini special to its menu, with surprisingly few terms and conditions. (Full-sized martinis and Manhattans cost just a quarter during weekday lunch in January, with a limit of two per person.) The special, essentially a bid to lure customers into the restaurant during off-peak hours, seemed too good to be true — until it was.
Over the weekend, Anton’s chef and co-owner Nick Anderer shared on Instagram that the 25-cent happy hour had come to an abrupt end after the chef was made aware of a State Liquor Authority law prohibiting businesses from serving free alcohol or discounted drinks priced at under half of their original price.
“Due to an obscure NY State liquor law, of which we were completely unaware, and for which we received no warning or notice, we can no longer offer 25 cent Martinis and Manhattans,” Anderer wrote in the post. For the rest of January, the restaurant plans to sell his martinis for $9 each during lunch, in compliance with the state mandate. Eater has contacted Anderer for more information.
Following the announcement, Jolene, an American restaurant in Noho that hopped on the discounted drinks bandwagon last week, deleted an Instagram post advertising its own $1 martini special during lunch on weekdays. Owner Gabriel Stulman says that he walked back the daytime happy hour due to “a few factors,” including the fact that Jolene is only open for weekday lunch on Fridays. “We’d rather come up with an idea that we can apply to more than the one single lunch service of ours,” he says.
The mandate exists to curb excessive drinking, according to the Wall Street Journal. In 2016, the SLA reared its head after a handful of Manhattan restaurants started advertising dollar cocktail specials on their happy hours, including Dante in the West Village and Playa Betty’s on the Upper West Side. A spokesperson for the state agency told the Wall Street Journal at the time that the promotions were likely illegal as they exceeded the allowed 50 percent discount. There are exceptions to that rule, according to the spokesperson, including in cases where a bar offers a discounted drink that’s smaller in size than the original.
But the martini special at Anton’s didn’t qualify for an exemption. “In order to prevent over-service, the [Alcoholic Beverage Control] Law prohibits licensees from offering unlimited drinks,” an SLA spokesperson told Eater in an email. “The SLA has long considered drink specials that are priced lower than one-half of the businesses’ regular price for the same drink to constitute the type of offering the law prevents. Following complaints about 25 cent martinis, SLA Investigators reached out to the licensee to issue a warning and remind them of their obligations.”
Update: January 24, 2022, 2:08 p.m.: This article was updated to include comments from an SLA spokesperson.