New York State authorized restaurants and bars to sell to-go cocktails with take-out orders as part of the State’s $220 billion FY 2023 budget. Now, the State Liquor Authority (SLA) issued guidance about what constitutes a “substantial food” item to meet the to-go drink authorization.
A substantial food item is defined as sandwiches, soups, or other foods, whether fresh, processed, precooked or frozen. Other foods are foods which are similar in quality and substance to sandwiches and soups; for example, salads, wings, or hotdogs would be of that quality and substance; however, a bag of chips, bowl of nuts, or candy alone are not. Obvious efforts to circumvent the law, for example an unreasonably small portion of soup, a serving of canned beans, a handful of lettuce, or charging a small extra fee for an alcoholic beverage in lieu of a food item not actually ordered or delivered will be treated as a violation of the law.
In addition, customers are restricted from purchasing large bottles, such as wine or liquor in “a bottle, box, can, or other similar container” that was purchased by the retailer from a wholesaler. New York has codified in its budget something like the rules put in place during the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic when indoor dining was completely prohibited. The food requirement led to the infamous “Cuomo chips” served by bars and restaurants to satisfy the food mandate.
Of course, both New York State and New York City have different leadership now than during the worst of Covid. SLA enforcement during the early months of the pandemic was heavy handed and particularly cruel to businesses that were devastated by the pandemic. Hopefully the new leadership takes a different approach to enforcement.