Restaurant owners make push to lawmakers for return of ‘alcohol to go’ in NY

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC/WNYT) — A popular pandemic “pivot” in the hospitality industry could be coming back.

Alcohol to-go was a lifesaver for bars and restaurants when they could not have customers indoors. Last year at this time, bars and restaurants were allowed to serve alcohol to-go under New York State’s temporary disaster emergency order, which expired in June 2021.

Now, if businesses want to do it again (which lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they do), then a new law will need to be passed. That’s because there’s nothing in the current law that gives the State Liquor Authority the power to permit bars and restaurants to sell take away booze.

Democratic Assemblymember Patricia Fahy submitted a bill along these lines in Albany in January of 2021, however, the Assembly’s legislative session ended before the bill made it to the floor for deliberation. If passed, this bill would allow the sale of to-go alcohol when the state is not operating under an emergency order. Fahy suggests to-go sales should be permitted for at least two years.

Other states, like Florida and Texas, made the sale of to-go alcohol permanent after seeing how it helped businesses survive during the pandemic.

This legislation has received bipartisan support. Some bars and restaurants say the additional revenue would be a game-changer as we face the omicron surge. Liquor stores concerned about their own bottom lines were among the opponents of the bill when it was first introduced about a year ago.

The New York State Assembly goes back into session on Jan. 5. Lawmakers are hopeful that the bill will be discussed at that time.