NEW YORK (Reuters) – For many New Yorkers, one of the only good things to come out of the coronavirus pandemic is a temporary relaxation of some state regulations, allowing people to buy to-go wine and cocktails or get them delivered.
With bars and restaurants closed for table service to control the spread of the virus in much of the United States, the change has been such a hit that one New York state senator wants to extend it for at least two years beyond the lifting of the lockdown.
Senator Brad Hoylman, a Democrat who represents parts of lower and midtown Manhattan, introduced the legislation this week as a way to support the struggling hospitality industry.
“It would really extend a very important lifeline to these restaurants and bars that were on the margin even before the pandemic,” Hoylman told Reuters on Friday.
In March, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo temporarily loosened State Liquor Authority regulations for businesses licensed to sell alcohol, allowing them to sell beverages to go as long they are in sealed containers and accompanied by food.
Unlike many countries in Europe and the rest of the world, most U.S. states have so-called “open-container” laws that restrict the public consumption of alcohol.
Last weekend, hundreds of New Yorkers with drinks in hand were seen gathered outside bars in Manhattan and elsewhere. The impromptu parties led Mayor Bill de Blasio to threaten a crackdown if social-distancing rules are not observed.
Outside Pilar Cuban Eatery in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, a few customers have been lining up 6 feet apart on recent evenings to order to-go spicy margaritas, sangria or mojitos.
“I think the alcohol right now is saving us,” owner Ricardo Barreras told Reuters on Friday.
Barreras, 49, said he welcomed Hoylman’s proposed legislation, given the uncertainty facing his business as New York City moves closer to a partial reopening in June.
“It would be an amazing thing,” he said.
(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Aurora Ellis)