Hochul vows to bring back alcohol-to-go program in New York

Park Slope, Brooklyn, bar High Dive opened a walk-through window where customers can buy booze to-go in 2020.
File photo by Rose Adams

Governor Kathy Hochul wants to reinstate the “alcohol-to-go” program that permits restaurants and bars to sell boozy beverages to-go, she announced during her State of the State address Wednesday, Jan. 5. 

The governor plans to introduce legislation to permanently legalize a temporary pandemic-era measure that let businesses sell booze from their storefronts and for delivery across the state, which expired last June. 

“We’re also going to do something our bars and restaurants have been asking for to once again allow the sale of to go drinks a critical revenue stream during the lean times last year,” Hochul said during her address in Albany. “So cheers New York.”

Former Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed state liquor license holders to sell alcohol for off-premises consumption in a March 2020 executive order under New York’s Temporary Disaster Emergency, which expired on June 24. 

Legislators have pushed to make the program permanent since May 2020, but the proposal did not progress and faced some backlash from the liquor store industry, reported Gothamist.

The program was highly popular and could once again come to the rescue as new variants like Omicron have thrown off the industry’s recovery, according to the head of a trade group.

“These are difficult times that are not letting up. The restaurant industry is being battered once again by another wave of COVID-19, colder weather restricting dining options and widespread staffing challenges,” said the president of the New York State Restaurant Association Melissa Fleischut in a statement. “New York State must find ways to support the industry and 78% of New Yorkers want alcohol-to-go to become permanent.”

The change will have to pass the state Senate and the Assembly, which returned for their six month sessions Thursday. 

Hochul’s announcement was praised by the head of the industry group the New York City Hospitality Alliance as a lifeline to keep eateries and alehouses going. 

“Cheers to Governor Hochul for announcing her support to permanently bring back drinks to go at restaurants and bars,” said Andrew Rigie in a statement. “The drinks to go policy provides critically important revenue streams to struggling restaurants and bars and is extraordinarily popular with the public, unsurprisingly.”

“We commend Governor Hochul for her leadership, and we look forward to toasting her administration and the state legislature once this important policy is reinstated,” Rigie added.