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Queens hospitality industry calls on state Legislature to bring back to-go alcoholic beverages

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Restaurant owners and community leaders came together at Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven on Wednesday, Feb. 16, to urge the state Legislature to bring back takeout alcoholic beverages permanently. (Photo by Andrew Mangini)

Restaurant owners and community leaders came together at Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven on Wednesday, Feb. 16, to urge the state Legislature to bring back takeout alcoholic beverages permanently. 

All across the state, legislators and members of the hospitality industry held press conferences to call on state lawmakers to finally pass legislation that would bring back to-go drinks. These press conferences took place simultaneously as the budget subcommittee held a hearing on economic development today to show the overwhelming support for this legislation as a way to stimulate the economy.

Hochul announced in her State of the State address last month that she fully supports reviving takeout drinks from bars and restaurants, which the state temporarily enacted to keep businesses afloat during the height of the pandemic. However, legislators and the hospitality industry are facing an uphill battle to make this permanent. 

Previous efforts to bring back the pandemic policy by state lawmakers last spring failed due to staunch opposition from liquor store lobbyists. This legislation set off a debate over who should be bringing alcohol to the masses outside their establishment: liquor stores or bars and restaurants.

Loycent Gordon, owner and CEO of Neir’s Tavern, stressed the need for this legislation as many businesses like his own are still struggling.

“The pandemic amplified the need for temporary fixes that would serve a short-term purpose,” Gordon said. “What many forget is that the effects of this pandemic are now long term, and the once-temporary fixes have become new constants.”

During the most recent omicron surge, Gordon said that he could have significantly benefited from the additional revenue that to-go drinks bring in. 

“I myself have suffered tremendously trying to navigate rent that was tripled and trying to fight back all those increasing expenses,” Gordon said. “Drinks-to-go has been embraced by all. It was wildly successful and works for both restaurants and consumers. The time is now to make this temporary fix a long-term solution. This is our last shot.”

Despite misinformation from liquor store lobbyists, the bill would not allow restaurants and bars to sell full bottles of wine and spirits. The bill also requires that customers purchase a meal with the sale of a cocktail or glass of wine to go. 

A survey conducted by the New York State Restaurant Association in 2021 found that 78% of New Yorkers support permanent to-go alcoholic beverages. 

Melissa Fleischut, the president and CEO of the NYS Restaurant Association, said that the time to get this done is now and state legislators must get on board. 

“Governor Hochul’s proposal makes clear the Executive Chamber’s commitment to supporting the economic recovery of the restaurant industry,” Fleischut said. “New Yorkers overwhelmingly support this policy and it falls to the Legislature to stand with restaurants who have faced unprecedented economic hardships since the beginning of the pandemic.”

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