New York Reopens, Terminating To-Go Liquor Sales

The law helped boost businesses during the pandemic.

June 25, 2021

ALBANY, N.Y.—Today, New York’s pandemic-related state of emergency officially ends, and with it goes the freedom of restaurants and bars to deliver and sell alcoholic beverages to go, reports the New York Times.

These changes come just over a week after Gov. Cuomo relaxed most of the state’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions. The sudden halt to the freer sale of alcohol may give liquor stores a boost, but it also may come as a disappointment to foodservice retailers that relied on that business to weather the pandemic.

“The Legislature failed to codify the ability of restaurants to offer alcohol to-go,” the New York State’s Liquor Authority said in a statement, referring to legislation that would have extended the alcohol takeout policy. Bars and restaurants can still deliver and sell beer to-go, as they did pre-pandemic.

The Distilled Spirits Council, a trade association, said that 15 states had passed bills making to-go alcohol sales permanent and that 12 had extended the period for such sales. Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, which represents restaurants, bars and nightclubs, said that many proprietors expected takeout alcohol would be allowed at least through July 5, when the latest in a series of extensions of the authorization was set to expire.

While consumers may have become accustomed to the convenience of takeout tequila and delivery daiquiris, some New York City foodservice operators hope the change will motivate more customers to spend time and money on premises.

“I want people to now come in, order food and enjoy the venue,” said Michael Trenk, managing partner, Baylander Steel Beach bar and restaurant at the West Harlem Piers. “I don’t want you to just come in, buy a drink and leave.”

As NACS Daily noted in April, the alcohol-to-go measures put in place by governors in more than 30 states were meant to be temporary moves to help restaurants stay afloat during the pandemic. However, many businesses and their clientele love the convenient new measures and don’t want to give them up. As a result, many states like Pennsylvania and Utah have been considering proposals which would allow for easier sale of alcoholic beverages.

Convenience stores were buoyed from the pandemic-related demand for alcohol during COVID-19. As reported in yesterday’s NACS Daily, Wawa stores’ just released the first of its summer brews as part of an ongoing collaboration with 2SP Brewing, which has an enthusiastic fan base for limited-edition beers.

Around the country, many cities and states okayed alcohol delivery as bars and restaurants closed to indoor dining. For example, the state of Georgia and the city of Las Vegas permitted alcohol delivery directly to consumers, and according to IWSR, which tracts the global alcohol market, online U.S. sales of alcohol in the U.S. are expected to increase by more than 80% in 2021.