An executive order allowing the sale of alcohol with takeout food in New York state has been extended, and will now end June 5. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the order to allow the sales when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state last year.
For Scott Donnelley, owner of Donnelly's Public House in Fairport, the alcohol sales are a lifeline for his business, providing much needed cash flow. He said his business barely made it through the last year.
“Much like everyone, not just specific to restaurants, it's been a grind,” Donnelly said. “I think that’s the best way to sum it up.
“The state allowing those types of sales to happen, particularly last year, as this whole thing got started, as we were learning to make changes in our business model, that piece was very important.”
State mandated COVID-19 restrictions, and issues with staffing and product availability all hurt his business, forcing him to change his model. When the state allowed alcohol sales with takeout food last year, Donnelley got creative — selling 32 ounce beer growlers and bags of mixed drinks that reminded people of Capri Sun drinks. He said they were a huge hit last summer.
As capacity limits have increased, Donnelly said these sales have become less important but he doesn’t think they should be illegal. He wishes the state would be as flexible as his local government has been.
“One of the things that Fairport says a lot is 'how can we help?’ And I hope that trickles down or up, if you will, to the state level,” Donnelly said.
There’s a push in the state legislature for a longer extension of the rule, possibly for two more years if not permanently, but that has not happened yet.
But one group thinks that’s a bad idea — the New York State Liquor Association. Stefan Kalogridis, the association’s president and a liquor store owner, said his group was in support of the measure as it helped struggling bars and restaurants, until some of them abused it by selling whole bottles of vodka or gin instead of pre-mixed drinks like Donnelly did.
“We have documentation and pictures of displays in restaurants that say ‘bottles to-go’ which wasn’t in the executive order,” Kalogridis said. “If it wasn’t in the executive order and they did it then, don’t you think they’ll do it when they pass the law? That’s the problem we have.”
Kalogridis said he doesn’t think the Liquor Authority has the manpower to police that issue.
A previous version of this story said the sales ended on May 6, it was extended on that day.
James Brown is a reporter for WXXI, a media partner of CITY.