As budget negotiations continue in Albany, New York’s bars and restaurants are making one more call on lawmakers to reinstate and make permanent a policy they considered vital to their survival during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bringing back “alcohol-to-go” has support, the New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA) said in a release late Thursday afternoon. The trade group pointed to a survey showing 78 percent of state residents want the COVID emergency provision that ended last June to come back.
Gov. Kathy Hochul included restoring it in her budget bill. However, members of the state Assembly and Senate are working on their own spending proposals in their respective chambers. On Thursday, Spectrum News reported the Assembly’s plan is not likely to include it.
Assembly and Senate leaders will work with the Hochul administration on a final budget. The New York State Constitution requires lawmakers to approve the annual budget by April 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year.
COVID-19 wrecked many sectors of New York’s economy. However, social distancing guidelines as well as bans and restrictions on indoor activities took a particular toll on the hospitality industry. Scores of businesses were forced to close. The ones that remained open pointed to the ability to sell alcoholic drinks with to-go orders as a key reason why they could.
Still, many bars and restaurants have not yet fully recovered. In January, a survey of industry establishments found that nearly three-quarters of them reported their 2021 sales figures were lower than what they made in 2019.
More than half, 55 percent, of the restaurants surveyed also said they have reduced hours on days they’re open. Two in five said they’re now closed some days during the week when they were open before the pandemic.
The legislative session does not end until June. But NYSRA President and CEO Melissa Fleischut said in a statement the “guaranteed” increases in sales tax revenue make alcohol-to-go a budget essential.
“On top of sales tax and excise tax, property tax and income tax are all significant contributors to the state’s coffers and at risk without additional aid to the industry,” she said. “Alcohol-to-go should be addressed by the legislature prior to the March 31 budget deadline.”
The association added that permanently legalizing alcohol-to-go would encourage more restaurants to offer it to their patrons, and of those who offered it during the pandemic, the association’s survey found 98 percent would bring it back if allowed.
“Restaurants are responsible for billions of state revenue dollars, and the collapse of our industry over the past two years directly impacts New York State’s budget,” Fleischut said.
This article was originally posted on Alcohol-to-go has support, needs more in Assembly