Restaurant owners pushing for permanent alcohol to-go as part of NY budget

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Hundreds of restaurants are open today because of something that was permitted under New York’s emergency order during the pandemic: Alcohol to-go.

A lot of businesses say it made the difference between staying open and shutting down.

Even though COVID mandates are now lifted for the hospitality industry, and restaurants are allowed to seat at full capacity, there are still challenges adjusting to how people consume.

So, restaurant owners are pushing for permanent changes from the state before the budget deadline.

"One thing I want to stress is things are not back to normal in the restaurant industry," said Mad Hatter Restaurant and Bakery owner Kristina Dinia-Jeffords. "Restaurants are still struggling, people are still—our customers are still not comfortable dining out."

"Peoples’ behavior has changed," said Marshall Street Bar and Grill owner Kelly Bush. "People are getting together at home, they’re getting together with friends, they’re not going out as much."

A survey conducted last year by the New York State Restaurant Association found more than 78% of New Yorkers want alcohol to-go to become permanent.

The state’s budget has to be finalized by March 31 and passed by April 1.