New York City, NY

New York State Removes Popular Takeout Alcohol Program

Synthia Stark
Photo by Dominika Gregušová from Pexels

Some New York restaurants (including some in New York City) have thousands of dollars in wine and beer that they cannot sell anymore. For example, some places have prepared pre-made beverages in to-go cups and bottles that many people happily bought, and allowed some restaurants to salvage some financial hardships.

However, this move is now being seen as illegal.

Contextual Information

Back in March 2020, when the state of New York declared an emergency, they ordered restaurants and bars to end on-site services. However, they gave a lifeline to these facilities by allowing them to sell their wine and liquor to-go. This made many businesses and people satisfied since at least they both got what they wanted.

I mean, businesses still had some kind of sales, and people got their desired booze. Then, on June 23, 2021, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, lifted that state of emergency.

You can see the tweet below for more information:

How This Impacts Business

This whole situation means that many bars and restaurants can eventually return to business as usual (BAU), which in theory should be no issue. I mean, places will be filled to full capacity after some time, especially if the industry has been struggling financially for the past couple of years.

However, this change will not be instantaneous, and the decision to remove the program has made businesses upset.

What the Customers (and Most New Yorkers) Want

At the same time, these same customers can no longer just walk out the door with their takeout purchases. There's a surplus of wasted booze that is now just sitting in a bunch of facilities with no place for them to go to.

Given the short notice of these changes, some restaurants feel like the rug has been swept under them. On top of that, 86% of New Yorkers still want their takeout alcohol and some want it to be a permanent thing.

As Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the restaurant association reported:

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, struggling restaurants were able to boost sales and keep doors open through the ability of selling alcoholic beverages with their orders. The same relief that was once needed at the height of the pandemic is still needed now."

She also reported:

“The restaurant industry needs stability now more than ever, and by making ‘alcohol-to-go’ permanent we can encourage a strong recovery. It’s popular with operators and customers alike. The numbers don’t lie.” 

Competition Between Restaurants and Liquor Stores

New York liquor stores do not always want to compete with restaurants that may be trying to sell wine to-go as well. For example, restaurants can offer side dishes, meals, and things of that nature, while liquor stores can only sell alcohol.

Basically, local liquor stores may not have other financial streams like many high-scale restaurants do.

It could be argued that the liquor stores and restaurants should be held to different standards, depending on who you are speaking to.
Photo by Hana Mara from Pexels

Financial Anxiety From Businesses

When the June 23 situation happened, this pushed businesses to sell as many products as possible, within a window of 24 hours, which caused a lot of stress.

This also meant that unless a giant miracle occurred, where millions or thousands flocked to get some takeout booze, then some businesses were ultimately in trouble.

As Sam Goetz, the owner of Judy’s in Sunset Park reported to Eater NY:

“Doing it one day in advance is just sadistic."

Sam apparently had 80-100 cases worth roughly $15,000 that were stockpiled in the basement of Judy's. The takeout program was literally his saving grace. The same could be said for other businesses.

What This All Means

Pulling the plug on the takeout booze means that is currently illegal.

However, many places still have a lot of takeout booze in stock and don't know what to do with this surplus. For example, some places may have $10,000-$20,000 worth of booze (or more) that they cannot sell anymore or anywhere.

Plus, for some places, their only source of income came from these sales. This means that some places are not fully clear in terms of their financial health. They will have to waste a lot of money and make the most out of these losses.

However, not businesses can afford to do so and may have to close their shops.

For the people of New York City (and those across New York State), some may be happy about all this while others may be devastated or annoyed. Only time will tell if takeout alcohol becomes a thing once again.

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