Governor Cuomo has required food service to encourage people to stay seated, but some bars aren’t taking the new rules very seriously.

As New York State has eased its COVID-19 restrictions, outdoor dining has been a big part of the plan since enclosed spaces seem to increase the odds of spreading the virus. But does proverbially drinking your dinner count as outdoor “dining?” Governor Andrew Cuomo recently chimed in very clearly: “We said outdoor dining,” he said, according to the New York Times. “We didn’t say outdoor bars.” And so, to hammer home that point, last Thursday, Cuomo said that, in an effort to keep people seated at tables and socially distanced, bars in the state would be required to serve food alongside drinks.

Toasted bread cubes
A cup of croutons.
| Credit: FotografiaBasica/Getty Images

Almost immediately, establishments desperate to keep their doors open began looking for ways to stretch the rules which include a couple of vague provisions: One, food is described as “sandwiches, soups or other such foods [. . .] and/or food items intended to complement the tasting of alcoholic beverages [. . .] including but not limited to: cheese, fruits, vegetables, chocolates, breads, mustards and crackers;” and two, no minimum charge was required.

Almost immediately, sarcastic menus sprung up across the state. For instance, Lafayette Brewing Company’s food and beverage director Chris Turner told Forbes he didn’t “even think [Cuomo’s] press conference was done by the time I hit print” on his ridiculous “Dollar Value Menu” featuring items like “a piece of meat”—billed as “Chef’s Choice”—and “grapes, not sure the color.” An image of the menu went viral on Twitter, racking of 57,000 likes.

Though Turner may have been one of the first to opt for a silly new menu, he was far from the last. Other examples include Handshakes Bar and Grill who quickly turned to Instagram with their own “Cuomo’s Unnecessary Obligated Menu Options”—a three-item bar menu featuring either two onion rings, “a few tortilla chips,” or “a few fries” known as Cuomo Fries, all for $1.

Meanwhile, Harvey’s Irish Pub also grabbed a bit of Twitter recognition by adding $1 Cuomo Chips to the menu—an item that apparently even got a thumbs up from government officials. According to the New York Post, Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi said, “It’s consistent with the guidance—but you have to be seated.”

And in the end, Azzopardi’s acceptance is important: The sarcastic menus don’t really matter that much because the food itself is inconsequential. Having a full stomach won’t prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but staying put at your table and not intermingling with other people might. So as long as you stay socially distanced, eat as many—or as few—Cuomo Chips as you like.