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They were seen as a lifeline for bars struggling to survive in the midst of a pandemic, but from today to-go cocktails are no more — and the announcement yesterday by Governor Andrew Cuomo has left a bitter taste with owners still battling to stay in business.
Suzy Darling, owner of The Pocket Bar and Back Pocket Bar in Hell’s Kitchen, reacted this morning: “To understand my frustration and disappointment with the decision that Cuomo has made to discontinue to-go drinks, I have to go back to the beginning of the pandemic when he first allowed this service. I felt he was throwing us a lifeline. It was going to be our only way to survive. I put my health at risk as well as my employees putting their health at risk to sell some of the cutest and most ridiculous to-go drinks,” she said.
Suzy continued: “For Cuomo to remove this important source of revenue when we in the hospitality industry haven’t even reached the beginning of financial recovery is infuriating.”
Post-pandemic New York is ending to-go alcohol sales at bars and restaurants from today. Governor Cuomo announced yesterday that he would call closing time on the popular carry-out service as a consequence of ending the state of emergency in New York State.
“Licensees please be advised that with the ending of our state of emergency and the return to pre-pandemic guidelines, the temporary pandemic-related privileges for to-go and delivery of alcoholic beverages will end after June 24,” the state Liquor Authority said on Twitter.
Restaurants and bars had been lobbying to continue the service and had hoped that this revenue stream would continue as their businesses rebuilt after COVID-19.
Melissa Fleischut, CEO of the state Restaurant Association, said: “Only in New York would elected officials ignore an overwhelming majority of the public.”
“After a long and difficult 15 months of trying to survive, it is very frustrating that a common sense rule that has been incredibly helpful to the industry is reversed with virtually no notice. It is very disappointing.” said Mandy Oser, owner of Ardesia Wine Bar on W52nd Street between 10/11th Avenue.
Kiara Clark from Hold Fast on Restaurant Row told us: “We wish that to-go cocktails would continue! Our loyal patrons loved walking away with one of our famous frozen drinks on a hot summer day or grabbing drinks for an afternoon with friends. Cuomo seems very out of touch with what is actually going on in our industry. What’s the difference between getting liquor delivered to anywhere you are in the city with one touch on your phone, or buying something from a liquor store — or in our case from our bar?!
In the early days of the pandemic, the to-go alcohol sales were the only way for many bars and restaurants to stay in business.
But Darling discovered that this lifeline was “a way out for insurance companies not to pay business interruption compensation.” Her claims got turned down time after time with her insurance company as “due to the opportunity to serve to-go beverages we did not have a valid business interruption claim.”
She continued: “600,000 people died from COVID. My father died from COVID. How much more interruption validity do you need?”
This isn’t Darling’s first clash with Cuomo during the COVID-19 pandemic — serving up “Cuomo’s Balls” as a substantial meal to meet the stringent regulations when bars first tentatively reopened led to her being hit with a $1,500 fine.