Republican lawmakers in the state Senate are calling for the Legislature to return to Albany to take up a bill that would legalize alcohol-to-go after pandemic-era provisions lapsed last week.
A summertime special session is rare, and given Republican lawmakers' minority status in both chambers of the Legislature, unlikely at this point, unless more issues are added to a potential agenda.
Still, reviving the popular alcohol-to-go provision for restaurants and eateries could prove a potent issue for lawmakers and provide a further boost to businesses that continue to dig themselves out from a pandemic recession-induced hole.
“Our small businesses suffered greatly during the pandemic, but the provision that allowed restaurants to sell alcohol to go was a small bright spot that provided a way for many of our restaurants and bars to keep their doors open and their businesses afloat," said Republican Sen. Mike Martucci.
For most of the last year, restaurants have been allowed to pair takeout food orders with alcoholic drinks after state liquor regulations were waived amid restrictions placed on restaurants. Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo formally lifted the state of emergency put in place since last March to respond to the pandemic — leading to a suspension of allowing takeout drinks with food orders in the process.
Restaurants have called for the provision to be extended indefinitely in the law, but state lawmakers this month concluded the legislative session without doing so. Business owners have argued it could take months, if not years, for their customer traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels.
“As a restaurant owner myself, it has been both heartbreaking and frustrating to see the incalculable damage being done to the hospitality industry, not only by the pandemic, but by overly restrictive state policies. Restaurants and taverns around my district — including many local landmarks — have closed their doors for good," said Sen. George Borrello. "Those that survived are struggling to regain their footing. Alcohol-to-go was a lifeline that helped them survive."