Not Ordering Food? No Booze For You, Cuomo Says

Bar patrons patronize an establishment in Huntington after outdoor dining was allowed to resume. (Photo by Mira Lerner)

Patrons cannot be served alcohol unless they are also ordering food at restaurants and bars across New York State in a move aimed at curbing an anticipated resurgence of coronavirus, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.

Walk-up bar service has also been rescinded and a three-strikes rule will be enacted in New York City, forcing the closure of establishments found to be repeatedly violating the rules, the governor added. 

“If you’re not eating a meal, and you’re just drinking, then it’s just an outdoor bar and people are mingling and they’re not isolated at individual tables, and that’s what we’re seeing” the governor told reporters during a conference call on Thursday. “Service at bar tops must be only for seated patrons who are socially distanced by six feet.”

To-go drinks are still permitted, as long as they are ordered along with food, officials noted. 

“Under existing law, all establishments in the state serving alcohol at retail for on premises consumption — including wineries, breweries, distilleries — must make food available,” said William Crowley, a spokesman for the State Liquor Authority (LSA). “That was the law before the pandemic and it’s the law right now. The only change now is this new regulation requires patrons to order food along with their alcohol.”

In the case of breweries, wineries, and distilleries that don’t make their own food but instead host food trucks and encourage patrons to order takeout or delivery from neighboring eateries, it appears the state now mandates patrons rely on outside food services when visiting such tasting rooms.

The new rules come after the SLA recently suspended the liquor license of an Island Park restaurant for alleged social-distancing violations. That suspension came after the governor recently warned restaurants that failure to comply with crowd limits to curb the spread of the virus will result in license suspensions. Cuomo previously said he heard complaints from bars in the Hamptons once outdoor dining returned with phase two last month.

Indoor dining with limited capacity returned in phase three, but rules dictate that patrons must wear masks while walking to and from their tables and can only remove masks while dining. Tables and chairs must also be six feet apart and staffers must wear masks.

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