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Op-ed | Bring back ‘alcohol-to-go’ to keep more NYC businesses alive

C bar and restaurant owners and workers struggle to come back from the pandemic
Bar owner Pat Hughes, cleans his beer taps at Scruffy Duffy’s, which has been closed for more than a year. in New York, U.S., May 17, 2021. Picture taken May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Roselle Chen

New York City’s bars, taverns, clubs, and entertainment centers are suffering another crisis at this time. As COVID-19 has returned to record rates, this has provoked fear among consumer and patrons, disrupting many entertainment and hospitality enterprises.

In the past two weeks many watering hole/food locations have closed. It’s a combination of customers being frightened by COVID-19 and staying away, many business or holiday parties being cancelled, and, for many businesses, not being able to have adequate staff because workers have either gotten sick, are taking precautions, or have become discouraged.

Government policymakers have lost credibility with many of these affected people because of conflicting information. Yet government needs to become immediately pro-active so many of these small businesses are able to survive.

Government should now allow, even encourage, bars, taverns, clubs, and entertainment centers to offer curbside alcoholic beverages including mixed cocktails, and food. These locations should also be allowed to offer bottle service.

The NYS Liquor Authority must do much more to boost business. For example anyone who reviews the authority’s website together with the NYC website about opening a bar, tavern, or club will be completely turned off by the difficulty due to many bureaucratic hurdles. This broken system has to be transformed where entrepreneurs and operators willing to risk capital in opening an establishment are embraced with efficient help.

Most important, the NYS Liquor Authority and law enforcement needs to cease and desist with playing “gotcha” fining, penalizing bars, taverns, and clubs for a variety of slight infractions. During the first COVID-19 crisis under Governor Andrew Cuomo, these establishment owners  experienced a “reign of terror” with all sorts of agency inspectors who wrote summonses and even closed down places! How did any of this support business owners, who then would have to layoff employees, halt paying their rent and utilities, and even their taxes?

Instead of hurting responsible, decent business owners, employees at these government agencies should instead be prioritized on safeguarding us against threats by criminals, mentally ill, and homeless who pose a dangerous presence on our streets.

Truth be told, here’s what I am seeing “on the street” everyday: Many bars, taverns and clubs are one step away from going out-of-business because of COVID-19’s latest economic blow.

Ken Goldberg is principal owner of Emerson Amusement of Woodside, Queens, and president of the Amusement and Music Owners Association of New York.

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