Is New York Bringing Back To-Go Cocktails Permanently?

Despite Governor Hochul's support, the change will have to go through the state legislature.

A to-go sangria is prepared at a bar
Photo: Guo Ya Hui / EyeEm / Getty Images

No matter how the pandemic progresses from here, some of the behaviors picked up over the past couple of years seem likely to stick around. Already gaining steam before COVID-19, contactless services like grocery delivery and restaurant curbside pickup have seen rapid growth. Another example: The need for bars and restaurants to find additional revenue streams during indoor drinking/dining bans offered more Americans a taste of to-go cocktails, leading some states to make the new rules permanent. Texas and Florida joined the party in May, with Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oregon following suit since then.

Now, another one of America's largest states may be joining the fray. Yesterday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul specifically mentioned her support for permanent to-go drinks in her State of the State address.

"We're also going to do something our bars and restaurants have been asking for, to once again allow the sale of to-go drinks, a critical revenue stream during the lean times last year," she was quoted as saying during her address in Albany. "So, cheers, New York."

She later hammered the point home in a tweet featuring a GIF of her toasting a champagne flute.

The move was immediately praised by industry groups. "This is great news for New York's hard-hit hospitality industry. Restaurants have a very challenging road ahead with the lingering pandemic and staffing shortages," said Lisa Hawkins, vice president for public affairs with the Distilled Spirits Council, a trade group that has advocated for these rule changes nationwide. "Sixteen states plus the District of Columbia have made cocktails to-go permanent and 15 states have passed legislation to extend the measure long-term. Legislators in these states have been extremely receptive to cocktails to-go because they recognize that restaurants help boost jobs and tourism, and generate important tax revenue for the state."

The announcement garnered local support as well. "The drinks to go policy provides critically important revenue streams to struggling restaurants and bars and is extraordinarily popular with the public, unsurprisingly," Andrew Rigie, president of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said, according to NBC New York.

After an extension last March, New York's rule allowing to-go drinks was allowed to expire in June. Beforehand, the New York State Restaurant Association released a poll showing that 78 percent of New Yorkers approved of takeout drinks, according to the New York Post.

What wasn't immediately clear, however, was how soon the new rules would be likely to return and whether the change would be permanent or temporary. Despite Hochul's ardent support, the final approval will reportedly have to come from the state legislature.

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