This week brought some good news with another month-long extension of New York’s takeout cocktail law. Being able to buy beer, wine and cocktails to-go has been a saving grace for many New Yorkers stuck inside during quarantine, and the sales have been a lifeline for restaurants and bars that continue to suffer financial losses from being closed.
As the weather gets warmer and more people are stepping out to order from their favorite bars (safely, with masks and maintaining distance), it’s also a return to the energy of the city that many have been missing. City blocks have begun to feel like block parties, reminiscent of the streets of New Orleans, where to-go drinks have long been a cultural norm. The laws have allowed bars and restaurants to showcase their creativity with reinvigorated offerings such as curated wine and meal pairings and clever to-go drinking devices.
Loosened liquor laws (which we’re seeing in many cities in the U.S.) have benefitted bars, restaurants and customers alike, and they are something I hope become permanent, at least in New York. The future of the hospitality industry is wrought with uncertainty, and since there is consumer appeal for drinks to-go, keeping these laws could ensure bars will bring in some income. In fact, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman introduced a bill in May to make the to-go laws permanent.
This doesn’t come without its challenges, the biggest one maintaining social distancing guidelines. Reports and photos have showed crowds drinking publicly, without face coverings and in less than six feet of distance apart. In New York, Governor Cuomo signed an order making bars and restaurants selling alcohol to-go responsible for ensuring the public follows regulations within 100 feet of their business, and Senator Hoylman stated that there must be more enforcement of the guidelines for to-go laws to become permanent. Just last week, Florida had to shut down alcohol sales after a large spike in COVID cases. The onus is on customers to be responsible with social distancing guidelines, something we’ve seen frustrations with nationwide.
The last few months have shown we’re eager to adapt to a changed culinary landscape, and I’m fully in support of laws that help my favorite bars and restaurants stay open during these difficult times. Drinks to-go have brought a sense of normalcy to summer in the city, and if we can continue to enjoy with masks on and at a distance, I’ll certainly be raising my glass to that.