New York’s takeout cocktail program, seemingly beloved by all but the state’s liquor store lobbyists, may soon make a comeback at restaurants and bars. During her annual State of the State address, where state officials typically outline their policy priorities for the year, Gov. Kathy Hochul signaled her support for making the popular program permanent following its abrupt end last summer.
“To-go drinks were a critical revenue stream for New York’s bars and restaurants during the pandemic, helping many small businesses across the state pay their rents or mortgages,” a written copy of the governor’s policy agenda states. “Governor Hochul will permanently allow for the sale of to-go drinks for off-premises consumption to continue supporting the recovery of bars and restaurants.”
The state’s takeout cocktail program was first enacted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in March 2020 through an emergency executive order at the onset of the pandemic. However, the now-disgraced governor was stripped of those powers last year as New York’s state of emergency came to an end. Hochul is now throwing her weight behind to-go cocktails in the most direct way that she can, by including it in her annual policy goals, according to a spokesperson for the governor.
It’s a small silver lining for the state’s restaurants and bars, many of which turned to the program as an additional source of revenue when dining rooms were operating at limited or no capacity. After being extended for the first 15 months of the pandemic, the policy came to an abrupt end in June, leaving restaurant and bar owners scrambling to sell off thousands of dollars of bottled wine with roughly 24 hours’ notice.
Restaurant owners and local business leaders have been calling on elected officials to make the state’s takeout cocktail program permanent for over a year, to some avail. State legislators first introduced legislation to make the program permanent last spring, but the law was not passed prior to New York lawmakers ending their most recent legislative session in mid-June.
A survey of 700 New Yorkers conducted by the New York State Restaurant Association last May found that adults in the state overwhelmingly supported restaurants to continue selling alcoholic beverages to-go, even after the pandemic. Close to 80 percent of respondents said they’d like to see the program made permanent.
“It is time for New York State to reinstate alcohol to go at restaurants,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance shared in a tweet ahead of the briefing. “It provided a critically important revenue stream to struggling restaurants and was extraordinarily popular with the public.”