N.Y.’s State of Emergency Will End Thursday, as Will Takeout Alcohol

With most restrictions already relaxed and fewer new coronavirus cases being detected in the state, “the emergency is over,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.,


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New York’s state of emergency will end Thursday. Takeout alcohol will end along with it.

Most of New York's remaining pandemic restrictions were relaxed last week.
Most of New York’s remaining pandemic restrictions were relaxed last week.Credit…Calla Kessler for The New York Times
  • June 23, 2021

New York’s state of emergency will end on Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday. And with it will depart the freedom restaurants and bars have had to deliver and sell alcoholic beverages to go.

The official end of the state of emergency comes just over a week after Mr. Cuomo relaxed most of the state’s remaining restrictions, a welcome sign of the state’s steady march back toward normalcy after more than 53,000 deaths linked to the virus. The sudden halt to the freer sale of alcohol may be a boon to liquor stores while surprising the bars and restaurants that came to rely on the business they generated to weather the pandemic.

“The Legislature failed to codify the ability of restaurants to offer alcohol to-go,” New York State’s Liquor Authority said in an emailed statement, referring to legislation to extend the takeout alcohol that state lawmakers did not act on before their session ended this month. “With the state’s declaration of emergency expiring on Thursday, all temporary pandemic-related suspensions and directives, including privileges allowing bars, restaurants, and manufacturers to sell drinks to go, will end after June 24th.”

(Bill Crowley, a spokesman for the authority, noted that bars and restaurants could still deliver and sell beer to go, as they could before the pandemic.)

The Distilled Spirits Council, a trade association that has lobbied to keep to-go alcohol sales, said that 15 states had passed bills to make them permanent and that 12 had extended the period for such sales.

Lisa Hawkins, an official with the council, expressed dismay that New York was ending the practice. “It’s shocking and extremely disappointing that this important revenue stream will soon dry up for New York’s hospitality businesses,” she said in an email.

Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, an association representing restaurants, bars and nightclubs, said that many proprietors had thought takeout alcohol would be allowed at least through July 5, when the latest in a series of extensions of the authorization for freer sales was set to expire.

Customers who have grown accustomed to the convenience of takeout tequila, delivery daiquiris and walkaway wine could also be taken aback, Mr. Rigie said in an interview. “It’s a shame the state legislature failed to continue to support local restaurants and to continue to deliver a very popular policy to New Yorkers,” he said.

But with restaurants and bars once again open to full capacity and more than 70 percent of adults in the state having received at least one dose of a vaccine, some New York City restaurateurs welcomed the change, which they hope will further motivate 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 of the Baylander Steel Beach bar and restaurant, located on a decommissioned aircraft carrier docked at the West Harlem Piers. “I don’t want you to just come in, buy a drink and leave.”

Mr. Cuomo declared the state of emergency on March 7, 2020, as New York City became one of the world’s hardest-hit places. In mid-March, when he limited restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery, the New York State Liquor Authority granted “new off-premises privileges,” meaning drinks to go.

Virus numbers declined in the city by the fall, but the state experienced a new surge in cases around the holidays and until relatively recently was still reporting new cases at a high rate. Buffalo and other cities also struggled to tamp down outbreaks. Vaccinations have helped radically improve the state’s caseload trajectory.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo said: “The emergency is over. It’s a new chapter.”

He said that federal guidance advising people to go on wearing masks in many situations if they are unvaccinated, and on public transportation and in settings like homeless shelters even if they are vaccinated, would remain in effect and that state and local health departments would be able to ensure that precautions were adhered to. He asked New Yorkers to remain “wary and vigilant” about the virus and noted that many still needed to be vaccinated, especially young people.

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