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Hell’s Kitchen revelers will be able to say “one for the road” once more, as Governor Kathy Hochul moves to legalize to-go cocktails for at least the next three years.
The Governor announced a budget deal on Thursday which included approval for restaurants and bars to serve to-go drinks for a three-year period, upon which lawmakers will revisit the statute. Restaurants will be limited to selling single-serve drinks only (ie, no full bottles of liquor) and customers must also purchase a “substantial food item” — a requirement that led to several creative snack workarounds (thank you, Back Pocket Bar, for “Cuomo’s Balls”).
Restaurant organizations were largely happy with the ruling. In a statement, Scott Wexler, executive director of the Empire State Restaurant & Tavern Association said: “Allowing restaurants and taverns to sell drinks to go will help our members and their employees earn a little extra revenue. It also provides the public with a convenience that proved extremely popular, and which they’ve come to expect in today’s modern world.”
Liquor store lobbyists who had protested the move were granted a significant concession of their own — part of the budget proposal will include the authority for stores to open on the previously verboten Christmas Day.
W42ST spoke to local bar and restaurant owners for reactions to the return of to-go drinks along 9th Avenue and beyond.
Miguel Olguin, the bar manager at Hudson West, said: “I feel that drinks to go really helped us as a business during the pandemic and also helped us bring new and regular customers that wanted a great cocktail or an excellent wine in their own home. It allowed us to give guests the bar experience without sitting in a bar. I would love to have that back on a regular basis.”
“It is great news and would help small restaurants a lot. My business has been 70%-80% delivery orders. I hope this will help my restaurant,” said Kevin Lee of At Nine Restaurant and Bar.
Gabby Ostos of HK Fusion Bar and Grill added: “We are delighted to proudly serve our community. New York, we are ready for you again!”
But not everyone was happy about the move. Daniel Kucera of Etcetera Etcetera argued: “We already have too many drunks on the street. I am not in favor. You make yourself a drink at home or you go out and help bars and restaurants. To-go drinks add more plastic and garbage!”
William Welles, owner of Chez Napoleon (currently undergoing the gas works required for reopening), put his feelings into song:
“Start spreading the Booze
I’m drinking today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York!!!”